How to Treat a Snake Bite 

August 17, 2015

Our friends Martin and Anthony at St John Ambulance share some great First Aid advice on how to handle a snake bite.

As with any medical emergency you're presented with, the First Aid response should always be "DRSABD":

Danger - where is the snake now, and are you or the patient still in harm's way?

Response - is the patient responding?

Send for help

Airway - check

Breathing - check

CPR - is the patient not breathing? Then CPR will be necessary.

(D stands for defibrillator, which we're guessing you won't have in your backpack whilst out hiking, riding, kayaking etc)

Once you've run these checks (and we've assumed here that you've not needed to initiate CPR), then you should start bandaging the wound, starting from the extreme point of the limb and working all the way up in an effort to minimise movement (see below).

See also: More great reads and adventures on our world of outdoors blog

The guys also share with us some sensational advice on what NOT to do - some of which are such old wives' tales now that unless you've done your First Aid course (which we strongly recommend), you might actually think this is the correct way to handle a snake bite.

So what are these First Aid no-nos?

Don't wipe away the venom - keep it on the surface of the skin by placing a bandage over the entry point. This will help doctors to later determine the snake and, more importantly, the correct anti-venom to use.

Don't cut the wound, or try to suck out the venom, and don't use a torniquet.

Anthony shares a great story about how science has learnt from Indigenous Australia when it comes to handling snake bites. Aboriginees bitten by snakes would be placed in a hut and kept very still. Family would come to feed them and provide them with water, but otherwise they were left to simply work the venom out of their system. If the following day they awoke, then obviously their body had beaten the snake. Science has discovered that it's in fact the lymphatic system which moves the snake venom around the body, and this system is itself moved by muscles. So the quieter and more sill the muscles remain, the more chance of reducing the venom's spread.

We hope you never have to deal with a snake bite but if you do, this video will prove to be invaluable.

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