Sh—t happens. Sometimes it’s minor, but occasionally it’s very serious—either way, the first few minutes after an injury are usually the most critical. You need to know what to do, remain calm, and be prepared to take action. Although not every emergency requires a trip to the ER, you should always call 911 if you feel it’s necessary. But if that’s not an option and you’re forced to take care of business on your own, here’s what to do if you...
Are Bitten by a Snake
Your chances of being bitten by a snake are small—unless you’re a young, drunk male. “Approximately 98% of all snakebites occur in men, and 40% of all people bitten had a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.1%,” says Doug Ross, M.D., an emergency physician in Las Vegas. “What’s more, 40% of bites occur in people who are handling or playing with snakes.” Hikers are usually bitten on the feet or ankles; drunks are usually bitten on the fingers or hands. In North America, the most common snakebites are from pit vipers—copperheads, water moccasins, and rattlesnakes—and severe envenomation will require an antivenin. “Rarely are these bites fatal, but if a severe case is left untreated, the venom can cause kidney failure, cardiac arrest, and blood-clotting abnormalities that can lead to severe bleeding,” says Abdulla Kudrath, M.D., an emergency physician in Ft. Worth, TX.
● Immobilize the affected area—some recommend keeping the wound site above the heart, and stay calm to reduce the flow of venom.
● If you can do so without wasting much time or risking another bite, take a cell-phone picture of the snake, or note identifying details to help physicians determine the correct antivenin.
● DO NOT apply a tourniquet, cut the skin around the wound, or attempt to suck out the venom; all are dangerous and could lead to further damage. Equally useless are the suction devices that are included in some first-aid kits.