How to Treat a Snake Bite

Statistics show that each year, almost 8,000 Americans are bitten by venomous snakes. Even a bite from a nonpoisonous snake can sometimes trigger an allergic reaction or infection [source: UMMC].

Snakebites can be lethal if they're not treated promptly. Administering the proper anti-venom can save the victim's life, so it's vital to get to the closest hospital emergency room as quickly as possible [source: Medline Plus].


Here's how to treat a snakebite:

  • Keep the victim calm.
  • Restrict movement of the affected area (use a loose splint if possible), and keep the area below heart level [source: Medline Plus].
  • Wash the bite with soap and water [source: UMMC].
  • Draw the venom out of the wound using a pump suction device, if available. Follow the device's instructions.
  • Remove all constricting items, such as rings, in case the area swells. If the area becomes swollen or discolored, the snake was probably poisonous.
  • Monitor the victim's blood pressure, temperature, breathing rate and pulse, to the best of your ability.
  • Watch for signs of shock. If they appear, lay the victim on a flat surface with his legs raised about a foot (30.5 centimeters), and cover him with a blanket [source: Medline Plus].
  • Get medical help or transport the victim to a hospital as fast as possible. If no medical care will be available for at least 30 minutes, wrap a bandage 2 to 4 inches (50.2 to 101.6 millimeters) above the wound, making sure it's loose enough to slip your finger beneath it [source: UMMC].

Caution:Do not do the following:

  • Let the victim overexert himself (if necessary, carry the victim)
  • Use a tourniquet
  • Apply a cold compress
  • Cut a snakebite with a knife or razor
  • Suck out the venom by mouth
  • Administer stimulants or painkillers except under the direction of a doctor
  • Give the victim anything orally
  • Raise the area of the bite area above heart level [source: Medline Plus]