Spiders, snakes and several other dangerous creatures have had an interesting history with the human race. The venomous nature of some of these creatures has a major impact on us and how we view these species in general. While many are small, the fact that they are venomous makes them worthy of our attention. Equally important are the methods that can be used in the field to treat their deadly bites.


Snakebite Dangers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7,000 to 8,000 people each year are bitten by snakes. Of those, only one in 500 will actually die from the bite. As a general statistic, deaths by snakebite rarely exceed 10 in any given year. Individual responses to snakebites vary, as some people can have an almost allergic reaction while others suffer only simple pain.

There are only four groups of venomous snakes found in the continental United States: copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes and coral snakes. Rattlesnakes are the most common venomous snake, with 31 different species spread across the U.S. With the exception of Alaska, venomous snakes are found across the U.S. Leading the pack is Arizona with 19 different types of venomous snakes within its borders.

Most snakebites are the result of less-than-solid decisions. Teasing or getting close to any snake is never a wise move. Left to themselves, snakes generally avoid people and prefer solitude. Occasionally, our worlds will collide, however, and bites will occur.

Treatments for snakebites can be the stuff of legend. From cutting an “X” on the bites and sucking out the venom to tourniquets, treatment suggestions sometimes are questionable. For a clear idea of what to do, we will look to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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Treating Snakebites:

1. If you or someone you know has been bitten, try to remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treating the snakebite.

2. Keep the victim still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom if the snake is poisonous.

3. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Dial 911 or call local emergency medical services (EMS).

4. Apply first aid if you cannot get the person to the hospital right away. Lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart. Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.


7 Snakebite Don’t

If you’re bitten, take care to avoid doing the following:

1. Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it. This may put you or someone else at risk for another venomous bite.

2. Do not apply a tourniquet.

3. Do not slash the wound with a knife.

4. Do not attempt to suck out the venom.

5. Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.

6. Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.

7. Do not drink caffeinated beverages.

Eight-Legged Attackers

While an important part of our environment, spiders are by nature venomous. Most spiders are too small or have venom too weak to injure humans. The tarantula is a great example. While feared by many, the bite of a tarantula is not considered medically serious. Painful, of course, because of the size of the fangs, but it lacks sufficient potency to be dangerous. However, spiders do indeed occasionally bite people and some of the bites can be dangerous. Similar to snakebites, the actual number of spider bites is small, with an average of 5,000 bites per year. The overall reaction to those bites depends on many factors, including age and general health.

The two medically significant spiders in the United States are the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. Of the two, the Black Widow is generally considered to be more dangerous. It is often difficult to distinguish a spider bite from a bite from another insect. Most cases of Brown Recluse bites are not reported until days after the initial attack because of the time it takes to react. Black Widow bites tend to be more acute, but the ability to see a clear bite mark is difficult. These bites are most often diagnosed by the symptoms of its venom.

It is always best to err on the side of caution if you believe you have been bitten by a spider. You should be concerned if the local reaction continues to get worse for more than 24 hours. Specific things to look for are drainage from the bite area, pain, numbness and redness spreading away from the bite or circular discoloration around the bite. More serious reactions can appear in different parts of the body, including sweating, chills, headache, leg cramps and a rapid pulse. This is due to the nature of some spider venom’s ability to affect nerve function. If you experience these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention. The CDC suggests these steps if you are bitten by a spider.

Surviving Spider Bites:

1. Stay calm. Identify the type of spider if it is possible to do so safely. Identification will aid in medical treatment.

2. Wash the afflicted area with anti-bacterial soap and water.

3. Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to reduce swelling.

4. Elevate the bite area, if possible.

5. Do not attempt to remove venom.

6. Immediately seek professional medical attention as soon as possible.

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