We camp in the kingdom of the timber rattler and the copperhead so I keep up on current best first aid practices for treating venomous snake bites in the field. Dr. Paul Auerbach, author of Medicine for the Outdoors, recently published an article about venomous snake bites: read the full article here.
Dr. Auerbach observes;
“Most bites, even by venomous snakes, do not result in medically significant envenomations.”
“The most important aspect of therapy is to get the victim to an appropriate medical facility as quickly as possible.”
There’s a significant amount of disinformation and folklore about treating venomous snake bites that could make the situation worse. Directions for treatment change as new information comes to light. If you hike and camp within the territory of venomous snakes be sure to read the entire article. While most people run the other way from any snake some Scouts won’t. It’s best to instruct Scouts to never attempt to capture or kill a snake of any kind.
Here’s the do’s and don’ts I draw from the article:
- Get away from the snake.
- Keep the patient still, reassure them.
- Splint the limb with the bite to avoid unnecessary motion
- Identify the snake if possible, but don’t delay evacuating the patient to do so.
- Apply ice or immerse the bite in cold water.
- Try to extract venom. Venom extraction by cutting and applying suction to the bite has been proven to have no real benefit and may cause greater damage.
Listen to my interview with Dr. Paul Auerbach on Podcast 57.