Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What is appropriate first aid for poisonous snake bites?

If someone is bitten by a poisonous snake, the bitten area should be immobilized and the victim transported to a hospital as quickly as possible. The bitten area should be washed with soap and water. A wide constriction band (tourniquet) may be applied two to four inches upstream of the bitten area (if on an extremity) so long as the pressure is not too tight (one or two fingers should be able to slide under the band). Overly tight tourniquets can block arterial blood flow to the affected area and worsen tissue damage.

Incising (cutting) and suctioning the bite area has not been shown to be beneficial, but a venom extractor (found in commercial snake bite kits) may be helpful if it is applied to the area within five minutes of the bite and left in place for 30 minutes.

Ice or cooling packs should never be applied to the area as these may result in greater harm, and incisions of the bitten area are also potentially harmful and have no benefit.

Most importantly, any victim of a venomous snake bite should be evaluated in an emergency medical care facility as soon as possible.

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