WILDLIFE: 7 Tips for Surviving a Snake Bite
For us dirtbags there is nothing like waking up in the tent, listening to the birds sing their morning songs, and getting a nice stretch and a bend in before breakfast. This is what keeps us awake and alive! With all the noise of wars, violence, and threats to our great outdoors, spending time outside is a great way to get away form it all. There is only one real concern that I have when I am enveloped in my nature oasis. That is...What kind of Wildlife is around that could kill me?!! Ok maybe that's a little extreme, but the concern is real. I often hear crazy stories about hikers getting attacked by a bear, mauled by a mountain lion, or bitten by a venomous snake. In this blog we'll share our 7 golden rules to avoid being bitten by venomous snakes.
- Be Aware: First of all prevention of getting bit is the best way to have a great day. Knowledge is power. Most snake bites occur between April and October. The chances of running into snakes are higher in the mornings and early evenings therefore be vigilant; watch where you’re placing your feet, be extra aware on rocky, sunny areas, pockets of leaves and logs across the trail. If you’re off trail, the odds go up because there are more rocks and cracks and less people to scare the snakes away. Watch out when running through tall grass and weeds. Step on a rock or log, not over it. This way you can spot a snake that may be sheltering under it and take action quickly. You should also be aware when sitting down on a rock or tree stump, you might be sitting on a snake. Important: Don’t try to chase the snake off the trail, this is why most people get bit by snakes.
- Don’t Run with Headphones on Trails, or have at least 1 earbud out. Snakes tend to be near water, especially if it’s in a dry environment. If you’re near a spring or river, keep an extra eye out. Since snakes are cold-blooded, they’d like to come out when it’s warm and sun themselves on rocky areas or trails. They like to be on the edge of a sunny patch. If you come across a sunny patch, your encounter chances increase.
- Do Not DIY a Snake Bite. There is a lot of BAD information out there on what to do when bitten by a snake. Please, please, please don’t cut at or around the site of the bite, don’t compress the bitten limb with a cord or tight bandage, don’t attempt to extract or neutralize venom using electricity, fire, permanganate, salt, black stones, mouths, mud, leaves, etc. All Snake Bite Kits are dangerous and should not be used. This was confirmed by the Snake Bite Poison Line.
- Staying Calm is Important! A lot of snake bite patients injure themselves by panicking directly after a snake bite, by tripping over a rock or tree trunk, or by falling off the side of the trail. After a snake bite, walk about 20-30 feet away from the snake. Find a safe place to sit down asap. The venom can rapidly diffuse into your system, this can drop your blood pressure too low to pump all the way to your head while standing. Sitting down reduces your chance of fainting within the first few minutes. If you faint, it shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.
- Get a Plan! Remove any rings, watches, tight clothing and anything else from the bitten limb, because the swelling will make it a lot bigger soon. Take 5 minutes to calm down and plan your evacuation. The only effective treatment for a snake envenomation is the right anti-venom to neutralize it. Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten.
- Get Help and Take Note! It’s important to get in touch with emergency personnel as soon as possible to get you to a hospital. If you have a cell phone and service, great, call 911 or the Park Ranger. If there is no service, think about the last time you had phone service. A sharpie can be a great help for emergency personnel to assess the severity of your snakebite. Circle the location of your snake bite and write down the time next to it. Draw a circle around the border of the swelling and write down the time. Write down all the things you’re experiencing that are not normal, with the time next to it. Examples are: metallic taste in your mouth, changes to sense of smell, sudden loss of vision, double vision, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears, headache, nausea and vomiting, bleeding from anywhere, dizziness, shortness of breath, etc. The most common signs and symptoms are pain and swelling. Update this info every 15 or 30 minutes as the swelling moves up the limb and your symptoms develop. Make contact via cell phone. If this is not possible, walk slowly to get help.
- Take Care of Yourself! Drink some water and take in some calories if you have any. Some snake bite victims walk several miles after serious snake bites to their legs. They make it out fine because they made it out to medical care. This is much better than waiting for help if you can’t reach anyone. Don’t let the fear of “raising your heart rate and increasing the speed of venom circulation” prevent you from moving to get to care. Be very cautious about driving yourself to a hospital, since some bites have serious side effects that could suddenly limit your ability to drive.
The 2 most important things to bring with you on the trail in case you get bitten by a snake:
I really hope this helps with being prepared for our slithery friends out there! Happy Trails Roll Dogs!