Snakes are an inseparable part of outdoor activities. They are found in every state and range from benign to deadly. In the spring and early summer, snakes will move from their hiding places to find sun. As cold-blooded creatures, they must use the sun to warm themselves. It is during these times that hikers and campers see the most snakes.
While thousands of people are bitten every year, only a very small percentage of these bites are lethal. Let’s cut through the fiction and get to the simple facts of how to deal with snakebites.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the method for dealing with venomous snakebites is straightforward. You should seek proper medical attention immediately. You should try to remember the color and shape of the snake, if possible, as this will help with treatment. You should try to stay calm and keep still to help slow the spread of venom through your circulatory system. Also, if you cannot get immediate medical attention, lay or sit down with the bite area below heart level, wash the bite with soap and water, cover the bite with a clean dressing and seek medical attention a soon as possible.
It’s also helpful to know the truth to snakebite myths before you are actually hurt. These common treatment “myths” have dangerous side effects and should not be attempted.
1. Do not try to capture the snake so that the doctor can identify it.
2. Do not wait for bite symptoms to appear before you seek help.
3. Do not apply a tourniquet.
4. Do not try to suck out the venom.
5. Do not drink alcohol as a potential painkiller, as it’ll thin your blood.
6. Do not drink caffeinated beverages for this same reason.
7. Do not use a knife to cut an “X” into the site of the wound.
This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.