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Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

Posted April 14, 2018 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: Outdoors Snake Bite wildlife

When you consider how cold this spring has been so far here in the northeast, it’s difficult to imagine that we will one day be spending time outside again (well, not me. I’ll be at Target).

After such a long period spent indoors, we might have forgotten some rules critical to exploring the outdoors. Certain things should be obvious such as picking up after yourself and maybe avoid feeding anything bigger than a rabbit.

But what do you do if you experience the wrath of nature in the form of an aggressive snake? Once struck, would you know what to do?

If you are like me, you might scream and scream until someone better equipped to handle such an emergency hears your cries for help. In some circles, this would be considered wrong.

In fact, one such circle offers detailed advice for treating a snake bite that doesn’t include any of the aforementioned steps.

Instead, the authors offer advice for treating bites received from specific snakes that goes beyond rushing to the hospital and receiving an antidote (which, let’s face it, should be an obvious first choice).

“We describe a treatment method for each type of snake that is classified as dangerous to people. So doctors can look up and see what they can do in the cases that they encounter. In this way, the book should improve treatment options," says co-author and biologist Arne Redsted Rasmussen from the School of Conservation, Denmark.

When a hospital is nowhere to be found and you haven’t any antidote or you are hoarse from your cries for help, the authors offer the following advice for treating a potentially poisonous snake bite:

The ‘pressure immobilization method’ calls for two bandages and a stick. First, the victim should wrap one bandage around the bite (treating it like a sprain) as this will restrict blood flow.

“This significantly restricts blood flow so that the venom does not reach the heart or lung muscles so quickly," says Rasmussen.

Second, take the stick and push it up through the bandage, securing it to the arm using the second bandage, thereby immobilizing your arm.

“This stops you using the muscles, and thus reduces the flow of blood, which would send the venom into your system, such as the kidneys and the muscles you use to breathe," he says.

“You often see that people do not exhibit symptoms of poisoning when they have strapped up the injury in this way, and when they come into the hospital and take it off, the symptoms begin to appear. It's a very effective way to delay the process," he says, and adds that many cases do not require such extreme treatment.

A common misconception about venomous snake bites is that they are instantly fatal. However, the author’s note that venom from a snake bite can take between 20 minutes and 72 hours to kick in; certainly more than enough time to attempt the author’s salve and even more time for a quick stop off at Target, which, let’s face it, is where you probably should have gone in the first place.

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#1

Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/14/2018 4:14 PM

Having grown up in rural Arkansas where snakes are ubiquitous, and living in the USA, this book, AUSTRALIA'S DANGEROUS SNAKES, would be of little use to me.

Learning things like not stepping where you cannot see and stopping to asses any noises you hear stood me in good stead as I roamed the woods freely from the age of 10. Cottonmouth water moccasins are by nature very aggressive but even they have no desire to hunt you down and strike you, if you just back away.

Most snakes will only strike if you step on them, or advance into their immediate proximity.

But, I agree that the tourniquet is a good first aid treatment if nothing else is available. Staying calm is the most important thing a person can do.

Always get medical aid, always!

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#3
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Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/15/2018 6:37 PM

Having lived in Australia and pretty interested in snakes, the snakes there are quite different to other poisonous snakes in that they have quite short fangs (6mm). The venom, although some of the most deadly in the world, is carried by the lymphatic system and this is why the firm bandage is advocated and tourniquets, being dangerous in themselves, are highly discouraged.

US and other countries with long fanged snakes are a different story as the venom is injected deeper and why tourniquets are probably the best way to avoid death.

Undoing a tourniquet which has been on for a while releases a whole load of metabolic toxins, not just the venom and is why it is suggested to release the tourniquet periodically to reduce the toxin levels.

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Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/16/2018 10:12 AM

The poster's article doesn't mention anything about using a tourniquet. It only talks about using a stick as a splint to attempt to immobilize the arm or leg to reduce muscle usage.

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#2

Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/15/2018 9:00 AM

I agree with the principle of restricting the blood flow but not with the suggested procedure. Wrapping the affected area as if treating a sprain is not effective in preventing return blood flow and the proper method is a proper tourniquet. Use the same bandaging material high up on the limb but insert the stick and twist until the bandaging is painfully tight. The recommendation for emergency tourniquets is to note the time of application on a label which cannot accidentally be removed (or on the forehead skin). However, no great panic. A tourniquet on the arm may be left in place for an hour and a half and on the leg for up to 2 hours, which should get you to emergency care.

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#4

Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/16/2018 12:35 AM

Why is Target the first place to go? Are you saying that you should go to Target instead of a hospital if you get a snake bite?

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#5

Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/16/2018 9:21 AM

Being from Wisconsin, we had a number of reported diamondback rattle snakes, of which are believed hitched a ride from people returned from the trip in the southwest.

But in our area, what I do fear or respect, is the brown recluse spider.

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#7

Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/16/2018 10:57 AM

Way back in another lifetime I worked for the Univ. of Tenn. College of Agriculture. The Agricultural Extension Service's statewide wildlife expert had an office down the hall. One day he decided to prove to those of us who were petrified of snakes that you can tell from quite a distance whether a snake is poisonous: triangular-shaped head = poisonous. He got out Charlie, his black snake, and set Charlie down at least 20 feet away from this gaggle of scairdy cats. Sure enough, we got a good look at Charlie's head. I know that under some conditions one doesn't get the luxury of a 20-foot distance, but most snakes don't want to get close to humans anyway. And a human can get well away from the snake before anything happens.

I don't know if the triangle head thing works for all snakes. Do Australians poisonous snakes have distinctive heads? I didn't want anyone to think that he was being exploited.

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Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/16/2018 12:11 PM

Sounds like profiling to me.

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#9
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Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/16/2018 4:24 PM

Australian poisonous snakes generally have pretty small heads, and generally, as I have tried to find them, the part you see is the tail dissappearing into the undergrowth. I don't know if that applies if it has bitten you though.

The death adder has a largish triangular head but has very good camoflage and is an ambush hunter, which is why people get bitten as they don't see it.

The general rule as I understand it is, long fangs use tourniquet, short fangs use firm bandage, as the toxin transport method is different.

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Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/16/2018 6:23 PM

There may be an association between length of fang and type of poison but if the two types of snake coexist in a habitat you are not necessarily going to recognise which one bit you. I take the point that if the poison is transmitted in the lymphatics then less pressure is required to obstruct the flow, but that pressure must still be applied above the wound, not simply over it. The "metabolic toxins" from a tourniquet, which were mentioned in post #3 are simply the products of anaerobic respiration, i.e. CO2 and lactic acid, and are relatively benign by comparison with snake venom. Tourniquet pressure obstructs both lymphatic and blood flow reliably.

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#11
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Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/17/2018 3:59 PM

I would not underestimate the toxins released by a tourniquet.

I have heard of people dying from this, with no snake involved. A large slug of unoxygenated blood with other metabolites can cause heart failure.

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Re: Authors Offer Advice for Treating Potentially Life-Threatening Snake Bites

04/17/2018 5:30 PM

Let us just say that i worked in orthopaedic hospitals 1-2 days a week for 25+ years, with operations involving tourniquets on most of the lists. We obviously kept a strict control of the tourniquet times, but I can assure you that none of the patients suffered more than a brief rise in pulse rate and CO2 output when the tourniquet was released.

“I would have everie man write what he knows and no more.”—MONTAIGNE

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