News Room

What should you do in case of a snake bite?

Wed, June 14, 2017

What should you do in case of a snake bite?

Summer is here, and that means an increased chance that you or a friend of family member could experience a snake bite. Recent news articles have reported an increase in snake bites across Georgia this year. 

Remember that 35 of the 41 kinds of snakes in Georgia are non-venomous, so chances are good that the snake you encounter will not harm you. You may want to print off this handy guide on snake-bite first-aid along with pictures of Georgia's six venomous snakes. 

Here is more information on what to do if you, a friend, or family member is bitten by a snake:

When a snake bites, TIME IS TISSUE. The bite victim needs careful and immediate medical attention. A call to 911 should always be the first course of action, and after that call is made, the following first-aid information can help you administer calm, cool and appropriate support:

• Remove the patient from the snake's territory, and keep him or her warm, at rest, and calm.
• Immobilize the injured body part in a functional position at the level of the heart initially.
• Placing the extremity below the level of the heart may lead to increased tissue damage.
• Remove any rings, watches, or constrictive clothing from the affected extremity.
• Do not apply pressure immobilization, tourniquets, or constrictive dressings.
• Cleanse the wound.
• Withhold alcohol and drugs that may confound clinical assessment.
• Transport the patient to the nearest medical facility as quickly as possible, preferably using Emergency Medical Services.

Attempts to identify the snake should not endanger the patient or rescuer and should never delay transport to a medical facility. A digital photo taken at a safe distance may be useful. Snake parts should not be handled directly because the bite reflex may remain intact in recently killed snakes and result in additional envenomation.

Venomous or nonvenomous? It may be difficult to determine whether a snake is venomous or not. Several characteristics have been proposed, but are not a substitute for expert consultation. Venomous rattlesnakes have a triangular shaped head, elliptical pupils, and hollow, retractable fangs. In contrast, nonvenomous snakes have rounded head, round pupils, and lack fangs.

Misidentification (particularly in an emergency situation) may have potentially serious outcomes, and patients with possible envenomation should be observed closely.

Techniques to Avoid: Methods, such as tourniquets, incision and oral suction, mechanical suction devices, cryotherapy, surgery, and electric shock therapy, have been advocated in the past, but are no longer recommended. Tourniquets can damage nerves, tendons, and blood vessels, and oral suction can lead to infection. Furthermore, venom removal by mechanical suction is minimal. In a study of mock venom extraction with a mechanical suction device in human volunteers, suction reduced the total body venom burden by only 2 percent.