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What is the
treatment for a venomous snake bite?
There are two phases in the treatment of snake bites.
treatment on site and during transport to an appropriate health care facility.
Tthe health care facility stabilizes the patient, administers
antivenin if deemed necessary, and provides supportive treatment.
Phase one of snake bite treatment
In the past there have been many home remedies and treatments, along with
snake bite kits and other treatment methods, many of which have been shown to
make the effects of the snake bite worse. Consequently, the CDC has issued guidelines, used after the
threat of additional bites to the patient or others is eliminated, about what to
DO and what NOT TO DO if a snakebite occurs. The following are the
recommendations made by the CDC:
Seek medical attention as soon as possible (dial 911 or call local Emergency
Try to remember the color and shape of the snake, which can
help with identification and treatment of the snake bite.
Keep still and calm. This can slow down
the spread of venom.
Inform your supervisor (if the bite occurs at work).
first aid if you cannot get to the hospital right away.
Lay or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart.
Wash the bite
with soap and water.
Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
Do NOT do any of the following:
Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it.
Do not wait for symptoms to
appear if bitten, rather seek immediate medical attention.
Do not apply a tourniquet.
Do not slash the wound with a knife.
Do not suck out the venom.
Do not apply ice
or immerse the wound in water.
Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.
drink caffeinated beverages.
Not included in the CDC recommendation is the bite
of the Australian elapid snake, also termed a sea snake, which is emergently
treated with a pressure bandage at the bite site with splinting and extremity
immobilization. Others suggest no use of electric shocks for any snake bite.
Phase two of snake bite treatment
The second phase of treatment consists of stabilization and supportive care,
and when medically indicated, administration of antitoxin (antivenin) specific for the snake species and a
booster vaccine. A good practice is to call your local poison control center or the
national Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222), and also to consult a toxicologist and a
surgeon to help care for the patient. Certain patients may require surgical
treatment and admission to the hospital.
The treatment of non-venomous snake bites includes local wound care at the
site of the bite, removing snake teeth if left in the bite site, attending to
any trauma at the bite
site, and a tetanus booster if
needed. Some wounds may become infected and require additional treatment with