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Snake Bite First Aid: What to Do If You’re Bitten


WRITTEN BY: Poison Center
Saturday, July 18th, 2015

With summer upon us, many people are heading outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. Whether you’re hiking, camping, or lying by the water, outdoor dangers may be lurking nearby.

Although not extremely common in the United States, snakes pose a threat to those venturing outdoors when the weather heats up. These slithering critters are the cause of 7,000-8,000 hospital visits each year in the U.S. While this number may seem high, on average, only five to six of these cases typically leads to death.

Types of Snakes in Pennsylvania

Twenty-two species of snake, three of which are venomous, call Pennsylvania home. These three venomous snakes include:

  • Northern Copperhead
  • Timber Rattlesnake
  • Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake.

All of these species are known to reside in or nearby western Pennsylvania. The Copperhead and Rattlesnake tend to live in rocky, mountainous regions, while the Eastern Massasauga earned its nickname, the “swamp rattler,” because it prefers wetland areas. These three snakes tend to be nonaggressive and steer clear of human contact, but you should always be aware of your surroundings and keep your distance if you see a snake.

So what should you do if you’re bitten by one of these snakes? Follow these Do’s and Don’ts in the event of a snake bite.

RELATED: How to Care for a Venomous Snake Bite Wound

What to Do if You Are Bitten by a Snake

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Stay as calm as possible.
  • Get away from the snake but stay as immobile as possible until help has arrived.
  • Remove clothing or accessories that may restrict your blood flow and cause swelling.

What Not to Do if You Are Bitten by a Snake

  • Don’t try to capture the snake – this is unnecessary and can lead to a more dangerous situation.
  • Don’t create an incision or suction the wound.
  • Don’t administer any drugs to the victim.
  • Don’t apply a tourniquet (restrictive device used to constrict the flow of blood to a body part).
  • Don’t apply ice to the snake bite.
  • Don’t wait to see if symptoms occur – call for help immediately.

Remember, if you see a snake, keep your distance and don’t disturb the animal. When it comes to safety outdoors, the best thing to do is avoid the danger.

Should you or someone you love need immediate medical attention, contact the Pittsburgh Poison Center for help.

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Poison Center

The Pittsburgh Poison Center responds to over 150,000 requests for poison information each year. It is staffed 24/7 by nurse specialists with extensive training in clinical toxicology. The Pittsburgh Poison Center created Mr. Yuk in 1971 to education children and adults about poison prevention and awareness. Read More