There are around 8000 snakebites recorded in the US each year, most occurring in the warm months of April-October when outdoor sports such as hiking and hunting are enjoyed. Of the 20 species of venomous snake native to the region only a few are known to regularly cause envenomation; almost 80% of bites are due to one of the species of pitviper, compromising rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and copperheads.
Pitvipers have a characteristic pit between their eyes which is heat sensitive in order to detect their prey.
Most venomous snakes are found in the Eastern States, however they are present in all states except Alaska and Hawaii.
HOW TO RECOGNISE A SNAKE BITE
Typically snakebites present as two fang marks with localised pain and swelling.
90% of snakebites are on the extremities.
Snake venom is either heamotoxic or neurotoxic and both present differently.
25% of bites will be dry bites were no venom is injected. There will be local irritation but no proximal progression of redness or swelling and no systemic features. Despite this patients with bites should still be observed for a minimum of 12 hours if the species is heamotoxic or 34 hours in the case of neurotoxic species as there can be delayed onset reactions.
THE DO’S & DO NOT’S OF EMERGENCY TREATMENT
It is often difficult to know what to do in the wilderness if you find yourself with a snakebite. We aim to go through the basics of what you should and should not do immediately.
Over 8000 people are bitten by snakes in America each year and of those people there are roughly 5 fatalities. Following the above steps will help you not be one of them!
Look out for part two of our snakebite guide coming soon, it covers hospital treatment and the latest in antivenin treatment!
If you liked this, why not check out our guide to deadly spider bites.