Responding to Snake Bites

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Responding to Snake Bites

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by a venomous snake in the United States each year. While there are low fatalities, the number would be higher if medical attention was not sought immediately.

Who Has the Highest Risk of Snake Bites?

Most snake bites in the country happen because victims do not realize a snake was there to begin with. After all, snakes have had centuries to perfect their camouflage and stealth abilities.

Hiking is a popular activity; therefore, hikers have a higher chance of encountering snakes out in the wild. Not knowing how to spot a snake or be on the lookout for it can lead to accidentally touching or stepping on them. This will trigger a retaliatory response, which is when most victims get bitten.

Aside from the venom, snake bites are dangerous to those with allergies. An allergic reaction to the venom can complicate matters even further.

Snake Bite Symptoms

If the snake is nonvenomous, the most typical symptom is pain on the affected part. While no venom is present, the wound can get infected. Urgent treatment is still necessary.

If the bite is from a venomous snake like a cottonmouth, rattlesnake, or coral snake, severe burning pain will develop on the bite mark within 20 minutes. Swelling and bruising will follow along with:

  • Labored breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • General sense of weakness

Sometimes, the toxins can also affect the nervous system, which means the victim can have difficulty speaking.

How to Treat Snake Bites

Whether you get bitten by a snake or are assisting someone who was, the first thing to do is move beyond the snake’s striking distance. This can prevent a second bite. Stay calm and follow these steps:

  1. Identify the snake by remembering its color and look. This can help with diagnosis and treatment later on
  2. Remove tight clothing and jewelry to prevent swelling
  3. Cover the affected area with a folded, dry dressing
  4. Immobilize the affected area
  5. Keep the bite lower than the heart

Do not try to suck the poison out with your mouth. That can do more harm than good. Making an incision is also a bad idea. Do not drive too fast if you are going to the hospital or bringing the victim. Aside from the risk of an accident, speeding increases the victim’s heart rate and speeds up the spread of venom.

Preventing Snake Bites

The best way to prevent snake bites is to avoid snakes altogether. If you are hiking, learn to identify when a snake is present. If you encounter one, keep your distance. Instead, call a professional who is equipped to handle the animal.

If you work in an area inhabited by snakes, wear strong boots and long pants that provide an added layer of protection against bites. Remember to identify potential hiding spots before poking into them, even with your protective boots.

Get Immediate Treatment at OU Health ER & Urgent Care

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Our combined emergency room and urgent care facilities come fully equipped to handle everything from allergies, colds, flu, sprains, cuts and scrapes to chest pain, appendicitis, complex fractures and more. An onsite laboratory, X-ray, ultrasound and CT scanning ensure you receive prompt, accurate diagnosis and the right level of care.

Walk in any time for OU Health emergency room (ER) services 24/7 or urgent care every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.