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From our friends at Survival Cave Food:

Snake Bite Safety

Unfortunately for many outdoorsmen, poisonous snakes are still prowling around in the most inconvenient places. Sometimes, you can step on one, or too close to one, and their instincts tell them to strike to protect themselves. While bites from poisonous snakes can’t always be avoided, they can be treatable and manageable when you know the steps.

First you should know that most snakes will avoid you at all costs. There are very few snakes (namely the South East Asian King Cobra and the African Mamba) who will attack a human out of aggression, and even so that will seldom happen. Almost all snake accidents are because a human does not hear or see a snake and will walk too close or step on them.

Even though snakes avoid you at all costs, you should still make it a point to avoid them at all costs. When outdoors, don’t sleep next to bushes, tall grass, large rocks, or trees. Snakes will hang out there, especially at night, so it’s best to sleep in open clearings. If you want to be extra careful, mosquito netting underneath a sleeping bag will usually deter them. Don’t stick your hands in dark places when you don’t know what’s in there (you’d think this wouldn’t even need to be said, but apparently lots of people don’t think that through). Don’t pick up a dead snake without cutting off the head first. The nervous system is often still active after a snake has died and it can still bite. When hiking, look at the ground and where you’re going to be stepping, and you’ll hardly ever have any problems.

Usually it’s pretty hard to tell if a snake is poisonous. Most snakes that the average person will come across won’t be poisonous, but if you’re bitten and you think it could be poisonous, call 911. Better yet, call poison control so they can help you identify what might have bit you. If you live in North America, the most common poisonous snakes are pit vipers (AKA rattle snakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths) and coral snakes.

You can divide most poisonous snakes into two groups: proteroglypha and solenglypha. Proteroglypha has a “fixed” fang (meaning they are always erect) and usually delivers a neurotoxin, which will usually cause troubled breathing. A solenoglypha will have a “folded”(meaning the fangs will protrude when needed)  fang that usually delivers a hemotoxin, which affect your circulatory system. This will cause danged skin tissues and internal hemorrhaging. Unfortunately for us, most snakes have both types of venom, though one type will usually be more dominant.

The severity of a snake bite depends on a few things: where you were bitten, the size and category of snake, and the age and health of the person that got bitten. Sometimes, a snake will bite without delivery the poison. If the snake did deliver poison, symptoms will most likely occur within 8 to 12 hours, but you should never wait until you experience symptoms. However, symptoms can sometimes show up to two weeks after the bite.

If you or someone with you is bitten by a snake bite, they should be taken to a physician immediately. You make wash the wound with soap and water. Try not to move the area that has been bitten. IA tourniquet may be applied two to four inches above the bite, but two fingers should be able to fit underneath. If the tourniquet is too tight, it will block arterial flow and can worsen tissue damage. The myth that you should suck out the venom is simply that: a myth. However, a venom extractor found in most commercial kits can prove to be helpful when applied for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately the use of these extractors are still debated between experts, so never rely on the device.  Never apply ice to the wound – it could worsen the bite.

The hospital will always know what to do in case of a snakebite. Usually, it’s treated with anti-venom or a through cleansing of the wound and observation afterwards. Just remember to stay calm and let your doctor do all the work!

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