and species of snake, what factors make a snake bite more or less dangerous?
A: One of the most important factors is personal sensitivity. Some people are more allergic to snake venom, just as some people have a more serious reaction to insect stings. Snake bites are more serious for very young and very old people and those with compromised health. The location of the bite is important, too. Least serious are those to the hands and feet, which is good because that’s where most people are bitten. Not seeking medical attention is a serious mistake. Even if a bite does not deliver enough venom to kill immediately, it can lead to life-threatening infection.
Q: Who is most likely to be bitten?
A: Anyone can be bitten when they accidentally step on a venomous snake. However, most bites occur when people try to catch or kill snakes. The typical snakebite victim is a male between the ages of 17 and 27. Alcohol consumption usually is a contributing factor.
Q: What first aid is recommended for snakebite?
A: If you have one of the old-style snakebite kits with razor blades and suction cups, throw it away. This form of treatment has been found to be ineffective, and cutting on the hands and feet can cause serious damage to tendons. If bitten, take the following actions:
- Move out of striking range of the snake.
- Remain calm and minimize physical activity. Excitement and exercise increase blood flow and spread the venom, if any is present. (Remember, there’s a one-in-four chance you got a dry bite!)
- DO NOT try to capture or kill the snake. Medical treatment will be the same regardless of the type of snake that bit you.
- Remove rings, watches and restrictive clothing in case swelling occurs, and rinse off any venom on the skin around the bite.
- Immobilize the bitten area to minimize venom spread.
- Take the victim to the NEAREST doctor or medical facility. Call for emergency assistance if this will speed up transportation.
- Call ahead to the medical facility so they can have the necessary drugs on hand.
Equally important is what not to do. DO NOT:
- Apply ice to the bite.
- Cut the wound or attempt to remove venom.
- Apply a tourniquet or constricting bands.
- Use an electrical device to shock the bite.
- Drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
Q: How can I avoid snakebite?
A: Here are some ways to reduce the already tiny risk of snakebite.
- Learn to identify venomous snakes, and know their habits.
- Never handle venomous snakes.
- When possible, delay work until snakes’ inactive period from November through March.
- Wear boots and heavy trousers when working or hiking in areas where snakes live.
- Wear a heavy, long-sleeved shirt and leather gloves when you must work with your hands around rock piles or other snake habitat.
- Use a pole, rake, stick, etc. to probe snake-prone areas before starting work.
- Work or hike with other people for mutual aid in case of emergency.