How to Survive a Snake Attack

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How to Treat a Bite

1. Wash the bite with soap and water.

2. Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.

This will slow the flow of the venom.

3. Get medical help as soon as possible.

A doctor should treat all snakebites unless you are willing to be your life that the offending snake is nonpoisonous. Of about 8,000 venomous bites a year in the United States, 9 to 15 victims are killed. A bite from any type of poisonous snake should always be considered a medical emergency.

4. Wrap a bandage.

Immediately wrap a bandage tightly two to four inches above the bite to help slow the venom. The bandage should not cut off blood flow from a vein or artery. Make the bandage loose enough for a finger to slip underneath.

5. Use a suction device on the venom.

If you have a fist aid kit equipped with the suction device, follow the instructions to place the rubber suction cup over the bite marks and draw venom out of the wound without making an incision. Do not attempt to suck out the venom—if it is in your mouth, it can enter your bloodstream.

What not to do

  • Do not place any ice or cooling element on the bite; this will make removing the venom with suction more difficult.

  • Do not tie a bandage or tourniquet too tightly. If used incorrectly, a tourniquet can cut blood flow completely and damage the limb.

  • Do not make an incision on or around the wound in an attempt to remove the venom—it may become infected.

Pro Tips

  • Because poisonous snakes can be difficult to identify—and because some nonpoisonous snakes have markings very similar to their more sinister counterparts— the best way to avoid getting bitten is to leave all snakes alone. Assume that a snake is venomous unless you know for certain it is not.

  • Even bites from nonpoisonous snakes should be treated professionally, as severe allergic reactions can occur. Some Mojave rattlesnakes carry a neurotoxic venom that can affect the brain or spinal cord, causing paralysis.