What to Do If Bit by a Poisonous Snake

Animal & Bug Bites

Apr 27, 2022


As temperatures start to get warmer throughout Texas and snakes begin to surface, knowing what to do if you’re bit by a poisonous snake is essential to outdoor safety. Thankfully, there are only about 15 venomous snake species in Texas and three venomous species in Colorado. So your chances of getting bit by a poisonous snake are low, even throughout the sunny months between April and October, when most snake bites occur.

If you are wondering what to do if you are bit by a venomous snake, Complete Care has put together this guide on how to handle a snake bite emergency.

First aid for snake bite

One of the most important parts of snake bite first aid is keeping yourself or the bitten person still and calm. Sudden movements and/or panicking can increase heart rate and blood pressure, moving the venom through the body at a faster rate. Call 911 or seek out emergency medical care before doing anything else.

Follow these tips while waiting for help to arrive:

  • Lay or sit the bitten person on the ground so that the wound is below the level of their heart
  • Remove all jewelry, watches, or bracelets that could cut into the skin of the arms and legs if they begin to swell
  • Wash the wound and cover with a clean bandage or cloth

Whether you’re waiting for an ambulance or have decided to take the bitten person to the emergency room, you’ll want to ensure that they are carried, if possible. As mentioned above, movements can increase the rate at which the venom spreads throughout the body.

What not to do in a snake bite emergency

After being bitten by a snake, do not try any of the following:

  • Pick up the snake or try to go after it
  • Apply a tourniquet
  • Suck the venom out of the wound
  • Apply ice
  • Immerse the wound in water
  • “Bleed” the venom out or slash it with a knife
  • Drink alcohol or caffeine before treatment

Do you need to go to the hospital for a venomous snake bite?

Because it can be hard to tell which snakes are poisonous, for your safety or the safety of the bitten person, you should always seek emergency care for snake bites. If you saw the snake, try to remember what it looked like. Identifying the snake can help the medical team know how to provide treatment, especially if you are seeking emergency treatment for a rattlesnake bite. The faster they’re able to administer the proper treatment, the higher the chances are of fully recovering from a rattlesnake or other venomous bite.

Most individuals who seek medical care for a snake bite will need to have their blood pressure monitored, be given antivenom, and may need to receive IV fluids.

If you feel confident that the snake that bit you or your loved one was not venomous*, keep an eye on symptoms. If you notice any of the following symptoms, seek medical care immediately:

Although extremely rare, it is possible to go into anaphylactic shock for a snake bite, especially if you have been previously exposed to snake venom.

*Please keep in mind that this goes against our best recommendations. You should always seek medical attention for snake bites whether or not you think the snake was poisonous.

What happens if you don’t treat a poisonous snake bite?

If left untreated, poisonous snake bites can cause severe medical problems and may become fatal. For example, rattlesnake bites leave behind venom that is made up of hemotoxins and neurotoxins. If left untreated, the hemotoxins in the venom can cause you to hemorrhage internally while the neurotoxins can cause paralysis. Most deaths on account of a rattlesnake bite occur within 6 to 48 hours of the bite, making it an absolute necessity that you seek emergency treatment for a rattlesnake bite as well as other venomous snake bites.

After all, the biggest factor in survival after a venomous snake bite is time. The sooner you are able to receive antivenom treatment, the higher your probability of recovery. 

Head into Complete Care for emergency snake bite treatment

Now you know what to do if bit by a poisonous snake: for your safety and the safety of the bitten person, it’s necessary to seek emergency care immediately — regardless of whether or not the snake was venomous. 

We hope you don’t, but if you or someone you love suffers from a snake bite this season, don’t wait to head into a Complete Care freestanding ER. Each of our facilities is fully equipped to handle a range of medical emergencies, including treatment for severe snake bites and/or allergic reactions to bug bites, with shorter wait times than your traditional hospitals.

We offer ER locations throughout Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, and Lubbock) and Colorado (Colorado Springs) — all ready to take complete care of you.

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