Snakebites

Whiskey shots aren't the answer

Rattlesnake, via Shutterstock     Photo: Audrey Snider-Bell

No topic in wilderness medicine is so laden with folklore remedies as the snakebite. Incision, suck-and-spit, mechanical suction devices, ice-water immersion, tourniquets… The truth is, none of those methods have been proven to work. Even worse, they waste precious time. The only real cure for a venomous bite is the appropriate antivenom from a medical facility.

The best steps to take if you’re bitten by a rattlesnake or coral snake, two of North America’s most common venomous snakes:

  1. Retreat out of striking range of the snake, which is at least its body length.
  2. Look for distinguishing traits that might help identify the species, like a rattle or facial pits, slight depressions between the eyes and nostrils that help detect infrared heat. If you have a digital camera or camera phone, consider taking a photo, ensuring you maintain a safe distance.
  3. Splint the bitten body part to limit unnecessary motion that might promote the spread of venom, making sure to allow room for swelling within the splint.
  4. Transport the victim to the nearest hospital immediately.

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