Snakebite: What To Do If You Get Bitten

Rilor Staff
Update: August 6, 2022
Table of Contents

One of the things that you should be wary about while camping, hiking, or backpacking is the wildlife. Needless to say, you are just a visitor when you are outdoors. The forests, grasslands, and other natural ecosystems are the home of animals and insects. Some of them are harmless, while others could pose a danger to you. 

Snakes are among the inhabitants of the wild. Typically, snakes aren't aggressive creatures. They just stay in their homes and territories. They just get defensive if you have trespassed their areas. 

Avoidance and prevention are the two things that could save you from potentially life-threatening snake bites while you are camping. But what should you do if you get bitten by snakes? Read on to find out. 

How To Prevent Snake Bites

As mentioned, the best way to increase your survival is to ensure that you aren't getting bitten by snakes. Once in the wild, you will have trouble identifying which snake has bitten you. So in those situations, you'll never have a way of knowing if the one that bit you is venomous or not. 

But how do you prevent snake bites, anyway? Well, there are several things that you can do. I've listed them below.

  • Stay on the prescribed trail or campground. Established areas are generally safe from the threat of wildlife. Keep in mind that animals don't venture to where humans usually dwell. So any areas that have been marked in the campground should be free from animals and insects. 
  • Be wary when swimming in water. There could be water snakes that are lurking in the area. Their bites are dangerous, as well.
  • Always be careful when sitting on rocks, logs, and other debris. There's always a possibility that a snake is hiding underneath them. 
  • If you see or encounter a snake, just back off. Don't ever try to provoke it. At the same time, don't attempt to touch it unless you are a trained professional. 

Encountering rattlesnakes while you are hiking or backpacking remains to be a possibility. Of course, I have to tell you that rattlesnakes are dangerous. After all, they can lunge at you at great distances. Here are the things that you should do if you encounter a rattlesnake. 

  • When you see a rattlesnake, and it is not going after you, just pass it. Maintain a safe distance and slowly walk around it. 
  • When climbing rocky trails, be careful where you put your hands and feet. There's a possibility that they are hiding under those rocks. 
  • Of course, don't hike or camp where these snakes are present. Don't pass through areas with tall grasses. 
  • If you are going into snake territory, you should wear ankle-high boots, long pants, and snake-bite-resistant gaiters. 
  • If you don't have a choice but to pass through areas that cover your feet, try kicking the ground. It will give the snakes a heads-up that you are passing. Hopefully, that should cause them to move away from your path. 


How To Avoid Snake Bites While Hiking?

How To Know If You Have Been Bitten By A Snake

Now, identifying a snake bite is easy if you can see that there are two gaping holes in your skin. However, there are instances where you can't see the bite, especially if you are treading on water or in areas with tall grasses. You might assume that you were just scratched or bitten by other animals. 

Fortunately, there are signs and symptoms that could tell that you are a victim of a snake bite. Here are they:

  • Wounds have bloody discharges 
  • Puncture marks are swelling
  • Extreme pain in localized areas
  • Burning sensation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased sweating
  • Difficulties of breathing
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Tingling or numbness on the limbs and face

Always remember that any snake will attack if you surprise or threaten them. However, only a few snake species are actually venomous. But of course, you should always treat all snake bites as venomous. Here are some of the most venomous snakes that you can encounter while camping, hiking, or backpacking. 

  • Cobra
  • Coral snake
  • Rattlesnake
  • Cottonmouth water moccasin
  • Copperhead

What To Do When You Get Bitten By Snake While Camping?

Here are some of the general procedures that you should do if you or someone gets bitten by a snake while outdoors:

  • Maintain calmness. Don't move and speak too much. You might want to restrict your movements. At the same time, make sure that the bitten area is below or at the heart level. In this way, you will minimize the transfer of venom to your heart. 
  • You need to remove any constricting accessories or items from your body. These things include your rings and necklaces. Wearing them can cause the bitten area to swell.
  • Let the snake bite bleed for up to 30 seconds before you clean it. 
  • Make a loose splint. The splint will keep the affected area from moving.
  • At this point, you should try your best to get immediate medical help. The faster you get treatment, the better. Get a quick ride to the hospital, such as by car or helicopter.
  • Always check the vital signs of the victims. If possible, monitor the blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse. Be attentive for various symptoms of shock since the emotional trauma of being bitten by snakes is often more perilous than the actual bite. 
  • It is essential that you will be able to identify the snake that bit you. In this way, you will get the appropriate anti-venom. You can also bring the snake if you have killed it. But make sure that you do it safely, as snakes can still bite after an hour after it has been dead. 
This video shows the ideal first-aid for snake bites

The Appropriate Medical Attention

If you get bitten by a snake, time is of the essence. You should call 911 or the emergency line in your area. Getting the right treatment in the most immediate time will prevent serious injuries from happening. However, medical personnel can only administer the right anti-venom if you know the snake that bit you. Hence, try your best to remember the appearance of the snake. 

In the United States, you can contact the National Poison Control Center. It has a national hotline (1-800-222-1222) that you can contact so that you will be able to talk to poisoning experts. Even if there's no emergency, you can still contact the National Poison Control Center. You can make inquiries about snake bites before the trip. The proper information can really save you!

What Not To Do When You Get Bitten By Snake?

Of course, there are several things that you should avoid at all costs whenever you get bitten by a snake. Here are they:

  • Don't move around or do rigorous physical activities. Move slowly and remove your pack and other things that add weight to your body. If possible, have someone carry you. 
  • Don't use a tourniquet. Applying a tourniquet will restrict blood flow, and it does reduce the spread of venom. However, if concentrated in one place, your cells would get damaged quickly. Letting it spread will somehow reduce the toxin concentration and minimize damage to the issue.
  • Don't use cold packs. Cold temperatures will decrease the normal circulation of blood in the bitten parts.
  • Do suck the venom. In the past, using suction devices to remove the venom was an accepted practice. However, it is no longer considered safe today. These devices don't actually take out toxins. They can also cause damage to your body tissues. 
  • Don't eat or drink. When bitten by a snake, it is important that you don't have any intakes. You should not drink medications unless medical personnel say that it is alright. 
  • Don't try oral suction. Of course, you should never attempt this method. Keep in mind that the fangs of snakes are curved. Hence, when they penetrate your skin, the venom's pocket would be somewhere else than you expect it to be. 

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