Snakebite! Now what? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

My weekend cabin is my Y2K safe place. However, there are four types of poisonous snakes on the property: Rattlesnakes, coral snakes, water moccasins, and copperheads.

I've been lucky so far, although I stepped dangerously close to a copperhead last weekend before I saw him.

Is there a place where anti-venom can be purchased? Does it have a shelf-life? What do you do if you're bitten post Y2K and getting to a hospital is not possible?

-- Dog Gone (, July 08, 1999


Don't know about antivenom. Most snakebite kits do more harm than good, but there is one that helps. You can find it in camping stores, it's a little yellow contraption with a plastic cup on one end and a plunger to create a vacuum. Apply and leave for half an hour, it sucks out _some_ of the poison. Helps prevent disease from tickbites too. I forget just now what it's called.

-- Shimrod (, July 08, 1999.


Will have to look this one up. I was told by an E.R. doc recently that if bitten in an extremity, keep it lower than the heart and put cool packs (ice packs wrapped in towel or cold water) around it. The goal is to slow the spread of the venom to other parts of body. He said not to try to cut or suck the wound, doing so can increase the odds of infection without helping significantly. I will research this further and let you know what I find out.

-- Kristi (, July 08, 1999.

Hello again,

Here is current info taken from "Brunner and Suddarth's Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing", 1996, pages 2025-2026:

Venemous (poisonous) snakes cause approximately 8000 of the 45,000 snakebites that occur each year in the United States and result in 9 to 15 deaths. Children between the ages of 1 and 9 years are the most likely victims. The greatest number of bites occur during daylight hours in summer months. Venomous snakebites are medical emergencies.(snip)

Snake venom consistes primarily of proteins that have a broad range of physiologic effects. Multiple organ systems, especially the neurologic, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems, may be affected.

Initial first aid at the site of the snakebite includes having the victim rest, removing constrictive items such as rings, providing warmth, cleansing the wound, covering the wound with a light sterile dressing, and immobilizing the injured body part below the level of the heart. Ice or a tourniquet IS NOT applied. (emphasis mine) Initial evaluation in the emergency department is performed quickly and includes:

* Determining whether the snake was venomous or non-venomous

* Determining where and when the bite occurred and the circumstances of the bite.

* Establishing the sequence of events, signs and symptoms (fang puncture(s), pain, edema (swelling) and erythema (redness) of the bite and nearby tissues).

* Determining the severity of poisonous effects

* Monitoring vital signs

* Measuring and recording the circumference of the bitten extremity or area at several points.

* Obtaining appropriate laboratory data (i.e., CBC, urinalysis, and clotting studies).

The course and prognosis of snakebites depend on the kind and amount of venom injected, where on the bodhy the bite occurred, and the general health, age and size of the victim. There is no one specific protocol for treatment of snakebites. General guidelines include the following:

1. Obtain baseline laboratory data

2. DO NOT use ice, tourniquets, heparin, or corticosteroids during the acute state. Corticosteroids are contraindicated in the first 6 to 8 hours after the bite because they may depress antibody protection and hinder the action of antivenin (antitoxin for the snake venom).

3. Parenteral fluids may be be used to treat hypotension. If vasopressors are used to treat hypotention, their use should be short -term.

4. Surgical exploration of the bite is rarely indicated.

5. Observe the patient closely for at least 6 hours; the patient is NEVER left unattended.

ADMINISTRATION OF ANTIVENIN (ANTITOXIN). Anitivenin is most effective if administered within 12 hours of the snakebite. The dosage depends on the type of snake and the estimated severity of the bite. Children may require more antivenin than adults because smaller bodies are more susceptible to toxic effects of venom. A skin or eye test should be performed prior to the initial dose to detect allergy to the antivenin.

Before adminstering antivenin and every 15 minutes thereafter, the circumference of the affected part is measured proximally (my note: between the bite site and the heart). Antivenin is administered as an IV drip whenever possible, although intramuscular administration can be used. Depending on the severity of the bite, the antivenin is diluted in 500 to 1000 ml of normal saline, the fluid volume may be reduced for children. The infusion is started slowly and the rate is increased after 10 minutes if there is no reaction. The total dose should be infused during the first 4 to 6 hours after poisoning. The initial dose is repeated until symptoms decrease. After the symptoms decrease, the circumference of the affected part should be measured every 30 to 60 minutes for the next 48 hours.

The most common cause of serum reaction is too rapid infusion of antivenin, although approximately 3% of patients with negative skin tests develop reactions not related to infusion rate. Reactions may consist of a feeling of fullness in the face, urticaria (hives), pruritis, malaise, and apprehension. These symptoms may be followed by tachycardia (rapid heart rate), shortness of breath, hypotension (low blood pressure), and shock. In this situation, infusion should be stopped immediately and IV diphenhydramine (Benadryl) administered. Vasopressors are used in the presence of shock. Emergency resuscitation equipment must be on standby while antivenin is infusing. (snip)......whew!

Typed it right from the book, hopefully no typos, it's long but more info. seems more appropriate than not enough.....

I will look forward to seeing any info from those trained in field treatment of this condition.

-- Kristi (, July 08, 1999.

So far all I can come up for antivenin is that zoo's have it for any venomous snakes they keep and that poison control for your area will know the location of other sources. I am looking into animal antivenin (rattlesnake) for veterinary use on "animals" made by Fort Dodge, probably by prescription only. Also read other info that you should get a tetanus booster if bitten. More as I can find it.

-- Kristi (, July 08, 1999.

Boy, that was a long answer! And a good one, too, if antivenin is available. I wonder if there are some veterinary supply stores. Hmmm

I really don't like snakes. I let my son keep a king snake in a cage, but it's entirely different to see a poisonous one in your yard...

-- Dog Gone (, July 08, 1999.

> it's entirely different to see a poisonous one in your yard...

It's even worse when you *don't* see it.


-- Lets be carefull out there!

-- Greybear (, July 08, 1999.

Dog Gone....

if your son still has his king snake, you might want to try this......

sprinkle the "bedding material" from the king snake's cage when he's cleaning it out around the yard of your house....and on the pathways, around outbuildings, etc

there's a reason they are called "king" snakes......other snakes are afraid of them!

i saw a show about king snakes once....the snake handler rubbed a cloth on a king snake and then held the cloth out (on a long stick) toward a rattlesnake..........the rattler did it's BEST to get away from that cloth!

not sure what you use inside your son's pet's cage, (we used sand for our boa when we had one), but i would imagine that sawdust or sand or whatever you use would pick up some of the scent from the king snake and repel most other snakes

hope this helps

-- andrea (, July 09, 1999.

Dog Gone,

Let's hope that antivenin is available ALWAYS! There apparently are times when the bite is mild enough (not enough venom injected) that folks survive even without antivenin - pretty nasty stuff though. So keep in mind the basics for first aid of it and accept that that is probably all one can do if "real" medical care is unavailable. Good night!

-- Kristi (, July 09, 1999.

We live in an area very thick with copperheads. When my son was two, he missed steping on one coiled up to strike so closely his pants leg brushed the snake. (definitely some intervention there).

Several folks, over the years, have been bitten around here. Most didn't needed anti venom. One fellow was back at the local store telling the story hours later with little or no effect. It depends upon the size of snake, depth of the bite and when snake has last used venom, ie. eaten and the individuals sensitivity to the venom.

Some precautions:

In the woods (and yard) be aware of where your hands and feet go. If steping over something like a log or rocks, look first.

Be especially careful in the fall when the leaves are on the ground, the snakes coloration blends in so well.

Snakes are born with plenty of venom. Snakes are especially nasty when they are shedding skin, as they are at various stages of blindness until they loose their old skin, and they will strike faster in self defense.

If you are new to the country, and live in a venomous snake area, I always used to go out first thing in the morning and do a good survey of son's play area when he was young, and he was told to stay in that area or else. We also had a good guardian dog for him.

Remove debris from around your home that would attract rodents and insects and thus snakes. Snakes also frequent briar patches to prey on young rabbits.

Be careful in out buildings. Spilled grain attracts rodents, and thus snakes.

Natrual preditors of venomous snakes around here are black snakes, king snakes and crows. I love them.

Clothing: Use leather gloves when working in wood piles or at ground level, and wear long pants, long sleeves and boots.

When out picking wild berries, or working where you can't pay close attention, you can add additional protection by wrapping layers of newspaper around your lower legs and securing with duct tape.

And last, but not least, I have had a copperhead in the kitchen, in the puppy whelping box, everyone was fine. But be sure to seal ALL cracks and areas around plumbing. Snakes can get through incredibly small holes. This spring, I was cleaning up the winters aluminum can horde, and picked up a very heavy can. Inside was a common snake that once removed from one would have ever bet it would fit in the tab hole. bugging out in Canada sounding better all the time? :-)

-- Lilly (, July 09, 1999.

Thanks for all the tips! I especially like the idea of using the bedding from our pet snake!

Obviously, the best thing is prevention. We're city folk, and this is our first experience with encountering these guys on a regular basis. If Y2K is extended, we'll be tromping through heavy brush to get to the river about a mile away to fish. I've bought some snake leggings, and those should help, too.

-- Dog Gone (, July 09, 1999.

Just last weekend, my DH came into the house and back out again carring the rifle, I asked what are you going to do? and he said just one word. Copperhead.

-- Carol (, July 09, 1999.

Antivenom has to be KEPT under refrigeration. Refrig takes a LOT of watts. Are you planning on a giant alternate energy system? If not, consider using a STUN GUN. There's a thread on it, discussing pros & cons on the old GN forum -- go to --- do a search for "Schenker" or "stun guns."


-- William J. Schenker, MD (, July 09, 1999.

They're called King snakes because their prey is other snakes. Too bad yours is an inside pet!

-- flora (***@__._), July 09, 1999.

Have lived among the rattlesnakes for 20 years and have had two dogs and a cat bitten. The dogs survived; we were told that the main worry was infection (seems as though snakes don't use toothbrushes) 8^) The dogs were put on antibiotics immediately.

Once knew of a man who hunted rattlers for a living. When he was bitten, he lay down on the spot and remained motionless and calm. I think calm would be a big survival advantage -- just maybe hard to do!

-- Gypsy (, July 09, 1999.

Yesterday I came home & the neighbor boy who was mowing our backyard killed a rattlesnake back there. We hadn't seen any snakes at all before.

Luckily, our dogs were not interested in the snake at all. One of dogs has been to a "rattlesnake clinic" put on by a local dog trainer. They put an electronic training collar on the dog and then lead them around a few rattlers until the dog spots them and then zaps the dog's collar. The dog reacts and learns to avoid the snakes. Also, it hopefully warns you if you see the dog react that same way when out in fields.

-- texan (, July 09, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ