Published on September 2, 2022
Snake bites are common in remote areas and the victims need first aid before they reach a medical facility. Unfortunately, bystanders are often unaware of what to do, and local practices could do more harm than good. Here are a few dos and don’ts for a snake bite, especially if it is likely to be from a poisonous snake.
First Aid for Snake Bites – Dos
- Transport the victim to a medical facility as soon as possible. The victim should avoid driving because of the possibility of passing out.
- Calm the victim to slow down the heart rate and therefore the spread of the venom through the body. The victim should be reassured that even if the snake was poisonous, it does not always inject venom in the bite.
- The movement of the part with the bite should be limited. A pressure bandage can be applied but only by a trained person, if present.
First Aid for Snake Bites – Don’ts
- Do not go close to the snake, even if it is dead. If possible, take a photograph from a safe distance to identify if it is poisonous.
- Do not apply a tourniquet. The tourniquet could block the blood supply to the limb and result in more harm than good.
- Do not adopt procedures that could promote the spread the venom through the body or damage the area with the bite wound. These include slashing the wound, or applying ice, plant extracts, electric shocks or “black stones” to the wound.
- Do not try to suck out the venom since it could enter the blood through cuts or sores in the mouth or may be accidentally swallowed.
Fry BG. Snakebite: When the Human Touch Becomes a Bad Touch. Toxins (Basel). 2018 Apr 21;10(4):170. doi: 10.3390/toxins10040170. PMID: 29690533; PMCID: PMC5923336.
Parker-Cote J, Meggs WJ. First Aid and Pre-Hospital Management of Venomous Snakebites. Trop Med Infect Dis. 2018 Apr 24;3(2):45. doi: 10.3390/tropicalmed3020045. PMID: 30274441; PMCID: PMC6073535.
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