|This is the outer packaging of "The Extractor". This can be found on internet sources, and in outdoor supply stores such as Dick's Sporting Goods, REI, Cabela's and many others.|
Recently, I have been receiving questions on how to treat snake bites and other envenomation injuries. Interestingly, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and a lot of outdated and archaic treatment information is still out there.
With regard to snake bites, experts agree first on what not to do:
What Not To DoThough U.S. medical professionals may not agree on every aspect of what to do for snakebite first aid, they are nearly unanimous in their views of what not to do. Among their recommendations:
- No ice or any other type of cooling on the bite. Research has
shown this to be potentially harmful. The same applies for
- No tourniquets. This cuts blood flow completely and may result
in loss of the affected limb.
- No electric shock. This method is under study and has yet to be
proven effective. It could harm the victim.
- No incisions in the wound. Such measures have not been proven
useful and may cause further injury.
- Do not eat or drink anything unless advised by medical sources.
- Do not engage in strenuous physical activity.
- Do not drink any alcohol or use any medication.
- Do not apply oral (mouth) suction to bite.
- Do not remove dressings/elastic wraps until arrival at hospital
and antivenom (more correctly, antivenin) is ready and available.
- Do not waste time or take any risks trying to kill or catch (to bring in) the snake responsible for the bite. (Although a quickly snapped picture with a cellphone might be helpful)
The ideal treatment is to wash the wound with soap and water, immobilize the wound keeping it lower than the heart, keep your patient calm and transport to a hospital immediately.
- If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, a
bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, may help slow
venom. The bandage should not cut off blood flow from a vein or
artery. A good rule of thumb is to make the band loose enough that
a finger can slip under it. The bandage should be a crepe or
elastic bandage and should be wrapped as you would for a sprain.
- A suction device* may be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. Suction instruments often are included in commercial snakebite kits.
* My own personal recommendation is to have the Extractor brand Complete Bite and Sting Kit on hand. This is the only device marketed which has been proven to extract venom, and the more venom you extract without skin and regional damage to the patient, the better off you are.
|After purchasing one or two Extractors, one for the house, and one for your evacuation kit, you should open it and familiarize yourself with the articles in the box and the procedure for its use.|
The extractor is beneficial because when applied as directed, it exerts a gentle pulling action which helps to drain venom, WITHOUT creating additional cuts or injuries which will furthur damage the skin, and can lead to infection. It is essential that you open the package, assemble the item, and understand its use prior to an envenomation injury.
Some hospitals have a variety of antivenins available, but most do not. They often have cooperative arrangements in which one would stock the antivenin for one type of bite, and another hospital will stock one for another. When they are needed, they will send over the needed antivenin to the other hospital via courier.
Because snakebite injuries are not common, they may not be very speedy about the actions which need to be taken.
This is information on different types of antivenin. Most types are fairly expensive and do expire, and this is why hospitals tend to cooperate with one another, rather than buy them all.
|(Photo: oakent.com )|
Here in Virginia, we have a variety of snakes. The venomous snakes of importance are
1.) Northern Copperhead http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/snakes/northern-copperhead/northern_copperhead.htm
2.) Eastern Cottonmouth http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/snakes/eastern-cottonmouth/eastern_cottonmouth.htm
3.) Timber rattlesnake http://www.virginiaherpetologicalsociety.com/reptiles/snakes/timber-rattlesnake/timber_rattlesnake1.htm
This chart is the work of : The Virginia Herpetological Society and may be found at:
On our farm, copperheads are common, and they are one of the few things we actually kill here. Cottonmouth are said to be possible here, though we have never seen one, and we have yet to see a Timber rattlesnake here, although this is why we never lie or sit on the grass, and why we do not walk around here in sandals. Despite this possibility, most of the snakes here, I would not characterize as harmless, because a bite can cause a serious infection, but I would characterize them as non-venomous. All snake bites should be seen by a physician.
The non-venomous snakes which are found in Virginia are:
This chart is the work of: The Virginia Herpetological Society and can be found:
Pantherophis alleghaniensis (Eastern Ratsnake)
(formerly Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta (Black Ratsnake)
It is really important to know what types of snakes are possible where you are, and what types of snakes are the most common. Snakes don't hunt us down with an eye to killing us. We simply infringe upon their areas sometimes in the course of maintaining or enjoying our own properties, or sometimes they find their way into a place where we are more likely to encounter them, like a woodpile, deck steps, a driveway, or toolsheds, or even rockpiles, or an old well.
These are listing of venomous snakes in each of the United States:
These are listings of snakes in Canada, including one which is venomous and found in some regions:
Please become familiar with the snakes where you reside.
Readers are encouraged to obtain competent medical device for treatment of all envenomation injuries ESPECIALLY SNAKEBITES as quickly as possible. This posting is designed to provide starting points for first aid alone, and not complete treatment. You should familiarize yourself with first aid treatment of envenomation injuries BEFORE they occur.
We will discuss other types of envenomation injuries and their first aid treatment in another post.