Do you know what to do if you or someone else gets bitten by a snake? I am organizing the Full Size 4 x 4 outing at Rausch Creek Off-Road Park in Pennsylvania on July 13 - 15, 2007 and the topic of snakes and snake bites came up. I dusted off my first responder training and have put it to use here. The most important is listed in this first section. Most medical experts agree that traditional field treatments such as tourniquets, pressure dressing, ice packs, and "cut and suck" snakebite kits are generally ineffective and are possibly dangerous. Poisonous snakebite is one of those conditions that you cannot treat in the field. Don't waste valuable time trying. If someone is bitten use the following treatment protocol. 1.) Transport the patient as quickly as possible to antivenin (antidote). Although local discomfort may be severe, systemic signs and symptoms maybe delayed for two to six hours following the bite. Walking the patient out is reasonably safe unless severe signs and symptoms occur. It is also significantly faster than trying a carry. Splint the affected part if possible. 2.) Expect swelling. Remove constricting items such as rings, bracelets, and clothing from the bitten extremity. 3.) Do not delay. Immediately following the bite of a snake thought to be poisonous, evacuation of the patient should be started. It can always be slowed down or canceled if it becomes obvious that envenomation did not occur, or the snake is not poisonous. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Now for more detailed information read on it just might save your life or someone else's. I knew my first responder classes would be used some day but not like this. Snakebites I will attempt to describe prevention and treatment of bites by poisonous snakes in the U.S. as well as the effects of such bites. Be aware that we are dealing with overreaction and hype here. Snakebite, while serious, is not the death sentence often implied. Snakes, poisonous and otherwise, have excited a lot of aversion and superstition over the ages, resulting in unwarranted fear and sometimes even panic. This fear and panic can lead to: Improper treatment of those cases which need treatment for envenomation. Dangerous over treatment for bites in which envenomation does not occur. Worsening the outcome of snakebites due to panic. Unnecessary and dangerous treatment of bites by nonvenomous snakes. Unnecessary destruction of snakes and their habitat. Snakebite in the U.S. should be treated conservatively. There is no need to jump in with knives, tourniquets, ice, or compression bandages. There is no need to try to suck out the venom by mouth. Carrying out any of these extreme procedures has the potential to do far more harm than good. I will explain later the reasons that such extreme measures should not be used. The victim should be given only the appropriate treatment and then be rapidly evacuated to medical facilities. Various snakes and their effects found in our area of the country include copperhead, cottonmouth (water moccasin) and the numerous species of rattlesnakes these are known as Crotalids (pit vipers). Types of Snakes Crotalids have the most efficient injection mechanism of any snake. They are equipped with long hollow fangs and a system to inject venom through them. They have the ability to inject large volumes of venom quickly. Their fangs can fold back into the mouth; lack of visible fangs does not necessarily mean an unarmed snake. They are the most dangerous group because (a) they are more likely to bite a human, (b) they can inject venom much more efficiently, and (c) they are usually larger and have more venom to use. The Venom Snake venom usually contains two types of poison: hemolytic toxins which attack the walls of blood vessels and neurotoxins which attack the nerves. Hemolytic toxin attacks blood vessel walls, allows serum to escape into the surrounding tissues, and causes clotting within the vessels. The result is severe swelling, pain, and discoloration at the site of the bite. In the few cases where hemolytic toxins cause death, the actual cause is likely to be shock. The effects of hemolytic toxin are immediate and primarily localized. Symptoms will be obvious. Neurotoxins produce much less obvious immediate symptoms, at times fooling the victim into believing envenomation has not occurred. But systemic symptoms can appear later. Neurotoxins produce much less local reaction than do hemolytic toxins. On the other hand, they can affect nerves quite removed from the site of the bite. In extreme cases they can cause respiratory arrest, although this is uncommon with the bites from most North American snakes. However, respiratory distress without actual arrest may to occur in neurotoxin victims. Less severe symptoms from neurotoxins include tingling or prickly feelings and eyelid paralysis. Most pit vipers have a higher fraction of hemolytic toxin, and elapids have more neurotoxin. The potency of venom will vary, with species, with time of year and with geographic area. It is worth mentioning that bites from other North American venomous snakes may yield little local pain, swelling, or other reaction following envenomation. It is probably best to assume that you have been envenomated and proceed to a hospital. Envenomated bites from either the diamondback or the Mojave rattler are serious, possibly even deadly. Do your level best to evacuate the victim quickly to medical facilities. Rule One: Leave snakes alone. There is no reliable rule to distinguish which snakes are venomous and which are not. Characteristics vary greatly depending on locale and occasional individuals have atypical coloration or pattern. Rule Two: See rule one or you could DIE! Copperhead Description: 22-52 inches. Stout-bodied; copper, orange, or pink-tinged, with bold chestnut or reddish-brown cross bands constricted on midline of back. Top of head unmarked. Facial pit between eye and nostril. Scales weakly keeled, in 23-25 rows. Anal plate single. Habitat: Wooded hillsides with rock outcrops above streams or ponds; edges of swamps and periodically flooded areas in coastal plain; near canyon springs and dense cane stands along the Rio Grande; sea level to 5000 feet. Range: SW. Massachusetts west to extreme SE. Nebraska south to Florida panhandle and SC. and West to Texas. It basks during the day in spring and fall, becoming nocturnal as the days grow warmer. Favored summer retreats are stone walls, piles of debris near abandoned farms, sawdust heaps, and rotting logs, and large flat stones near streams.... In fall, copperheads return to their den site, often a rock outcrop on a hillside with a southern or eastern exposure." Cottonmouth / Water Moccasin Description: 20-74 inches. A dark, heavy-bodied water snake; broad-based head is noticeably wider than neck. Olive, brown or black above; pattern less or with serrated-edged dark cross bands. Wide light-bordered, dark brown cheek stripe distinct, obscure, or absent. Head flat-topped; eyes with vertical pupils (not visible from directly above as are eyes of harmless water snakes); facial pit between eye and nostril. Young strongly patterned and bear bright yellow tipped tails. Scales keeled, in 25 rows. Habitat: Lowland swamps, lakes, rivers, bay heads, sloughs, irrigation ditches, canals, rice fields, to small clear rocky mountain streams; sea level to ca. 1500 feet. Range: SE. Virginia south to upper Florida Keys, west to southern. Illinois, southern Missouri, SC. Oklahoma and central. Texas. Isolated population in NC. Missouri. When annoyed, the cottonmouth tends to stand its ground and may gape repeatedly at an intruder, exposing the light cotton lining of its mouth. Also called trap jaw or water moccasin. Unlike other water snakes, it swims with head well out of water. Although it may be observed basking during the day, it is more active at night. Preys on sirens, frogs, fishes, snakes, and birds. Speckled Rattlesnake Description: 23-52 inches. Pattern and color vary greatly; generally has a sandy, speckled appearance. Back marked with muted cross bands or hexagonal to diamond shaped blotches formed by small clusters of dots. Large scale above eye pitted, creased, or rough-edged; or rostral scale separated from pre-anals by row of tiny scales. Scales keeled, in 23-27 rows. Habitat: Prefers rugged, rocky terrain, rock outcrops, deep canyons, talus, chaparral amid rock piles and boulders, rocky foothills; sea level to 8000 feet. Range: Extreme SW. Utah, southern Nevada and southern California south into NW. Sonora and throughout Baja California. Active during the day in spring and fall, at night in summer. Eats ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, white-footed mice, birds, and lizards.