5 Myths of Snake Bite

Posted October 10, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

Majority of the people have many misconceptions regarding snake bites and the way of treatments used to save the victims.

Myth 1: Use a tourniquet to keep the venom in an extremity


  • Like other myths, using a tourniquet can actually do more harm than good: studies have shown that confining the venom to an extremity where the bite occurred actually causes more damage to that area without providing any benefit to the victim overall.

  • What you can do is keep the wound at heart level (e.g. if you were bitten on the arm, drape it over your chest), remove constrictions (e.g. tight clothes, shoes), and stay as still as possible while, of course, quickly finding your way to a hospital.

Myth 2: Sucking the venom out of the wound / snake kits


  • We’ve all seen it in the movies the cowboy gets bit by a snake in the desert somewhere, and his friend prepares to suck (or cut) the venom out. This myth was even perpetuated in old Boy Scout handbooks.

  • But it doesn’t work.

  • Sucking the venom out can cause the poison to spread to the mouth, and the extractor pumps found in snake kits won’t do any better: a study found that one of the most common extractor pumps extracted bloody fluid but virtually no venom.

  • Meanwhile, cutting it out will only cause more tissue damage and blood loss.

Myth 3: Shock it with ice or electricity


  • We ice a lot of things bruises, sprained bones but even though snakebites may cause swelling, that doesn’t mean ice will deactivate the venom.

  • Neither will shock treatments or electricity . Obviously, electric shock could also be dangerous the patient.

Myth 4: You must identify the snake that bit you


  • This myth suggests that specific antivenoms are required to treat bites from different snake types in the US.

  • While that may be true in other parts of the world, 98% of venomous snakebites in the US are from the North American pit viper, including copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes. One antivenom, CroFab, is approved to treat adult and pediatric patients envenomated by any North American pit viper, including rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths/water moccasins.

  • Getting a photo of the snake may be helpful if it is safe to do so, but do not try to catch or kill the snake, and do not bring a live or dead snake to the emergency room.

  • Rather than tracking the snake, track the progress of the venom.

  • Take a new photo of the bite zone every 15 minutes and any red swollen areas until you get to the Emergency Room.

  • This may help the doctor determine the appropriate treatment upon arrival.

Myth 5: Copperhead bites are harmless


  • While it’s true that most copperhead bites are not fatal, that doesn’t mean they’re harmless.

  • People have died from such bites (and not just those who have an allergic reaction).

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