So you’ve been bitten by a venomous snake? Here’s what to do.

SnakeBite911 appDon’t apply a tourniquet. Don’t suck out the venom. And never, ever attempt to capture or kill the snake.

When traveling in areas where you might encounter a venomous snake, knowing what to do is just as important as knowing what not to do.

So in recognition of World Snake Day on July 16, the time is right to go over some important advice that could save your life or the life of your Scouts.

It starts, of course, with being prepared. And you do that by adding the free SnakeBite911 app to your first aid kit. As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, I’ve given the app a permanent spot in my phone’s “Scouting” folder.

Now I don’t want to alarm you, but it’s estimated that 8,000 venomous snakebites occur each year in the United States — usually during the months of March to October. Snakes live in nearly all states — not just deserts and swamps but also rainforests and urban areas. Even a bite from a nonvenomous snake, though rarely fatal, requires immediate medical attention.

What not to do

Actions you might see on TV (I’m looking at you, Discovery Channel) or think are beneficial may actually put the victim at greater risk of infection or loss of limb after a snakebite.

  • DO NOT use tourniquets.
  • DO NOT attempt to cut or apply suction to the bite site.
  • DO NOT apply cold packs or ice to the skin.
  • DO NOT use Advil, Motrin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • DO NOT use shock treatments or apply electricity to the bite.
  • DO NOT attempt to capture or kill the snake.
  • DO NOT attempt to transport the snake.

What to do

Follow these two steps if bitten:

  1. Remain calm and seek immediate medical attention.
  2. Consult the app.

SnakeBite911, the app

Two things most people don’t have when bitten by a snake: time or knowledge about snakebites.

“There is a startling lack of public knowledge with respect to venomous snakebites and how to treat them, even among individuals who are outdoorsy,” says Tom Logan, head of patient outcome management for the company that makes SnakeBite911, a free app. “In the rare occurrence of a snakebite, time really is tissue, and quick and appropriate care is absolutely paramount for the victim.”

So here’s where the iOS app SnakeBite911 comes in. The app includes:

  • Information to help you identify snakes, including North American pit vipers, rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths (water moccasins).
  • A snake sightings map to view and share snake sightings in your area.
  • hospital locator tool to find the nearest hospital equipped to treat venomous snakebites.
  • Tips for navigating snake-inhabited terrain
  • Ideas on how to provide basic first aid in the event of a bite
  • Dos and don’ts in a snakebite emergency
  • A time-stamped venom tracker, which uses your iPhone or iPad’s built-in camera to capture photos of the bite area at regular intervals. This can help doctors and first responders.

Here’s a demo of the app:

Which snakes are native to your area?

Use the interactive map at this site.

6 Comments

  1. Interesting that the interactive US Map does not show the Eastern Coast States. Have we been “snake bitten”?

    • You just follow the detailed instructions provided in this article! Hello!

      Oh, wait, the instructions in the article were to not do all the things, except for the things that are in the instructions you can’t read.

      This kind of article is not helpful. One shouldn’t title an article “What to do… ” if the instructions of what to do ARE NOT IN THE ARTICLE. Period.

      “An iOS app for snake bite situations…” would be better. Or “An APP that has instructions for snake bite victims…”

      We constantly get “Don’t rely on your phone for GPS” and we tell the scouts the same thing, insisting they know how to use maps and compasses and other “not getting lost/confused” techniques. We don’t tell them to use an app. And yet, for first aid for snake bites, we’re telling them exactly that. Or telling ourselves that…

      Sorry to be critical, but feedback is a gift, right? 🙂

      • Let me spare you a few megs from your data plan:

        The app’s advice (after telling you what not to do) is:

        1. Call 911
        2. Hurry! (er, “get the bite victim to the ER as quickly as possible”)
        3. Remove tight fitting clothes, jewelry, and/or shoes
        4. Take photos every 15 minutes (using the app)
        5. Elevate the wound
        6. Keep the victim still
        7. Contact the poison control center (not clear on if you do that from the ambulance, or after you’re cured)
        8. Treatment and Aftercare

        This app seems to be made (or commissioned) by the makers of the CroFab drug, and the list of hospitals that show up when you search are taken from their customer list. I don’t see my normal care provider in the list, so either they use a different product or I’m out of luck!

        Accordingly, the list of snakes in the education center seem to be limited to the kinds that the drug treats.

        • The only antivenom used in the United States is CroFab. I seriously doubt any hospital uses any other antivenom except for special exotic cases. CroFab treats every [native] venomous snake native to the states except coral snakes (whose antivenom has been discontinued because it wasn’t profitable due the small number of envenomations). So if your normal care provider doesn’t show up, it is because they don’t have the capability of treating snake bites. If that is the only place close to you, your best bet would be to go there and have them transport you so you can get supportive care along the way or call a doctor with antivenom in for treatment.

          That said, there are times when a tourniquet is appropriate. But it should only be used when you are very far away from getting medical treatment and you are going to have to decide between life and limb in the literal sense.

  2. And what about the areas you can’t get cell reception? How do you use an app that doesn’t exist in some areas. Or what if you don’t want to buy a smart phone for an 8 to 12 year old boy to take out in the woods and break. This article was not helpful at all.

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