What should a person do if bitten by a venomous snake?

Hopefully you are reading this before anything has happened!

It should be stated that we are not experts on venomous snakebite nor its treatment. We defer to your local medical personnel and their ability to seek out expertise to treat any bite from a venomous snake.

But some reasonable advice:

First, breathe calmly and distance yourself from the snake. Let the rush of adrenaline subside prior to action. Are you sure you were bitten? A rattlesnake bite will leave two distinct fang puncture marks, with immediate and lasting pain that will feel different from (and worse than) a simple laceration.

It is important to get help as soon as possible, either by calling 911 for medical assistance, or telling another individual to allow them to get you help. Go to a hospital or emergency room as soon as possible without running or driving yourself.

Do:

  • try to keep the bitten area lower than the heart to reduce blood flow through the bite area and thus reduce delivery of venom to the rest of the body
  • firmly, but not tightly, wrap the bitten limb "above" (that is, closer to the heart) the bite to slow but not cut off blood flow to the bitten area - also reducing spread of venom
  • remove anything consricting like rings and bracelets to avoid harm during swelling
  • keep as calm and inactive as possible - again this reduces transfer of the venom into the body, and also reduces chance of shock

Do NOT:

    • "take care of things" yourself – that is hard to do
    • apply a tourniquet – loss of blood flow leads to tissue death
    • cut the bite area – causes more damage and misses venom anyway
    • ice the bite area – causes tissue damage
    • attempt to suck out the venom – usually does not do much good and may lead to risks via sores
    • give alcohol to the bitten person – compromises ability of body to defend itself

    Further Information Regarding Bites:

    Guidance from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources


More information about Indiana's potentially dangerous snakes:

Eastern Massasauga

Northern Copperhead

Timber Rattlesnake

Western Cottonmouth