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Thread: Sssssnake Bites

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    Default Sssssnake Bites

    Hi everyone,

    There is a lot of information out there about venomous snake bites while long distance hiking. Obviously I know this is a very rare occurrence and prevention, including being aware of when snakes might be active and constantly being on the look out for them, is the best way to avoid getting bitten. And of course you should hike out immediately if you get bitten or stung by a scorpion etc.

    However, in the very rare case of snake bite.... what is the best course of action? It seems that the old fashioned tourniquet/ suck it out methods are not recommended at all. What about The Extractor Bite & Sting kit? Does anyone pack that as part of your first aid kit? Does it do more harm than good? Should you just leave the area alone and get help asap?

    51gkjdnxpmL.jpgThanks for your input!

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    Go look through the hundreds of journals on the PCT and see if you can find a single snake bite. That will answer your question on whether to take anything to mitigate that risk. You are probably more likely to hit in the head with a falling pine cone or tree then being bitten by a snake yet you still don't see people wearing hard hats as they walk along.

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    I talk to backpackers in the Southeast where we see our fair share of pit vipers (saw 4 on my last trip) and we shake our heads and realize there is very little you can do if you're in the backcountry with no car nearby. The normal consensus is: If it's a copperhead, pop alot of benadryl and stay in camp and wait it out. If it's a rattlesnake, curl up and prepare for a heart attack.

    OR you could dump everything and slowly hike to the nearest road and hope someone drives by who's willing to ruin their day by participating in my little epic. Keyword here is "slowly hike". It could be 3 or 4 miles of hard hiking to the closest road, with a 3,000 foot drop or a 3,000 foot gain, not the best scenario to keep your heart rate down.

    Fact is, once the poison enters my system and the bite area begins to painfully swell, it would be difficult to not panic and instead sit in my tent and pull a Billy Jack ceremony with viper venom. I would probably drink a load of cold mountain creek water and would even submerge myself in a cold mountain creek, just a gut level reaction.

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    On the entire Southern California section of the PCT this spring, I believe that I saw just three confirmed rattlesnakes along with countless other snakes that I couldn't positively identify. They are harmless and give lots of warning. And forgiving. I nearly stepped on one and it still gave a warning rattle. It was pissed and could have struck me but didn't. I heard a trail rumor about a guy who did get a snake bite and had to get off trail and barely survived, etc etc. But I sensed a lot of exaggeration in that trail rumor. Trail rumors are notorious for exaggeration. It's quite possible the event never even took place.

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    "They are harmless"

    OK, I realize that's an overstatement. They aren't harmless. But for the most part they are not even close to the monsters that everyone makes them out to be. I personally would not worry about rattlesnakes. Just be aware of where you step, don't put your hands where you can't see, etc. IMHO...

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    Best advice is don't even worry about it. I'm not aware of any rattlesnake bites ever for a PCT thru-hiker (someone correct me if I'm wrong). The biggest risk factor in being bitten by a snake is picking it up. Even a snake you step on may not bite you.

    So, keep your eyes open, leave the snake bite kit at home, and try to relax and have a good time. If you see a rattlesnake, get some pictures (from a reasonable distance). They're amazing creatures.

    FWIW, you'll have phone service in a lot of SoCal, and the trail is never far from a decent-sized town until after Tehachapi, so rescue won't be far away in the incredibly unlikely event you need it.

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    I believe the original posters questions was what should you do *IF* you get bit by a snake - in regards to proper first aid....not having 5 people tell her that she won't get bit so don't worry about it

    Knowledge is power, even if you'll never, in a million years, ever get bitten by a snake. It is better to know what to do just in case. I don't know myself - all the old methods are out of date now, and that's why I'm also interested to hear what the proper thing to do is. I have heard to basically tie a bandanna above the bit (NOT cutting off circulation - just slowing it a bit), then finding help immediately so you can get to the hospital (but I could certainly be wrong).

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    I have seen dozens of rattlesnakes hiking. I have even stepped on one (I was not paying attention obviously). While they will certainly bite sometimes they do not really want to and only do it as a last resort. So chances are pretty small. A buddy of mine hiking here in AZ a couple of years ago saw 17 in one day.

    That being said IF you do get bit do not panic. Rattlesnakes are not anywhere near as deadly as people think. It is very rare for an adult bit say on the lower leg to die from a bite. My mother grew up on a homestead in Wyoming and she told me that it was pretty common for the sheepherders and cowboys to get bitten. The standard thing was to lay up and ride it out. Get a bunch of water and some food and make camp as you were going to get sick. In 2-3 days you would be able to get about again. Worst thing to do is to get excited and start hiking (or running) fast for help. Pumps the venom through you fast. That is not a good idea. Tipi is right...lots of water and cold compress (stick your leg in a cold stream), sit still. That is if you are deep in the woods. If you are 30 mins from a road take your time and calmly go get help.

    Btw rattlesnakes do NOT rattle a lot of the time. On my farm I had a huge timber rattler that lived in my equipment shed (keeps the rats down) and he was about 5-6 feet long and as big around as my forearm. He lived up there for a good 10 years and I would end up walking by him all the time. I would look down and he would be only 4-5 feet from me. Never made a sound. Just watched me. I always looked around for him to make sure I did not scare him stupidly of course. But it was sort of you stay out of my way and I stay out of yours. We had snakes everywhere. So while you are trooping along you will walk by them occasionally and not even see them because they do not rattle at you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dochartaigh View Post
    I believe the original posters questions was what should you do *IF* you get bit by a snake - in regards to proper first aid....not having 5 people tell her that she won't get bit so don't worry about it

    Knowledge is power, even if you'll never, in a million years, ever get bitten by a snake. It is better to know what to do just in case. I don't know myself - all the old methods are out of date now, and that's why I'm also interested to hear what the proper thing to do is. I have heard to basically tie a bandanna above the bit (NOT cutting off circulation - just slowing it a bit), then finding help immediately so you can get to the hospital (but I could certainly be wrong).
    Yep I agree with you. It won't happen...tell that to they guy who was bitten and was dead before he got to the hospital. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/nati...icle-1.2298037 7000to 8000 bites every year. That is a lot of bites in my book

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dochartaigh View Post
    I believe the original posters questions was what should you do *IF* you get bit by a snake - in regards to proper first aid....not having 5 people tell her that she won't get bit so don't worry about it

    Knowledge is power, even if you'll never, in a million years, ever get bitten by a snake. It is better to know what to do just in case. I don't know myself - all the old methods are out of date now, and that's why I'm also interested to hear what the proper thing to do is. I have heard to basically tie a bandanna above the bit (NOT cutting off circulation - just slowing it a bit), then finding help immediately so you can get to the hospital (but I could certainly be wrong).
    I agree with Dochartaigh. I have heard that the Extractor isn't recommended a lot these days, but I always carry it and would use it.
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    Best course of action if bitten is going to vary according to circumstances.

    Sometimes it's hike out. Other times it's to not add stress to your body and hope you're rescued timely.

    So you really have to be able to self evaluate and then act accordingly.

    I don't worry too much about fellow hikers but they're far more likely to kill you than a snake.

    If someone sells a kit to remedy injury from drivers who were texting that will be worth having.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ocourse View Post
    I agree with Dochartaigh. I have heard that the Extractor isn't recommended a lot these days, but I always carry it and would use it.
    What to do IF bitten (and that's a big if),

    1. Slowly move away from anyone with an extractor or snake bite kit.

    2. Situational Awareness, if you can get to a medical facility, then proceed with all due haste.

    3. If you can't take heart that few snake bites need medical attention, problem is you're unlikely to know if you need medical attention immediately after a bite, hence get to a medical facility if possible.

    4. If it takes a long time to get to a medical facility then by the time you get there you'll know if you need anti-venom, so don't panic if nothing seems to be happening, there probably wasn't any venom injected. When you get to a medical facility have them clean the wound for possible infections.

    5. The following website is the only site that I've seen that offers good advise besides get to a hospital. It's well stated and I'll not restate if as they've done an excellent job.
    http://newyorksearchandrescue.org/do...snakebite.html

    Lastly, I talked to many ER doctors and they generally state that mostly they don't need to treat snake bits, beyond possible infections, as few have venom injected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredt4 View Post
    What to do IF bitten (and that's a big if),

    1. Slowly move away from anyone with an extractor or snake bite kit.

    2. Situational Awareness, if you can get to a medical facility, then proceed with all due haste.

    3. If you can't take heart that few snake bites need medical attention, problem is you're unlikely to know if you need medical attention immediately after a bite, hence get to a medical facility if possible.

    4. If it takes a long time to get to a medical facility then by the time you get there you'll know if you need anti-venom, so don't panic if nothing seems to be happening, there probably wasn't any venom injected. When you get to a medical facility have them clean the wound for possible infections.

    5. The following website is the only site that I've seen that offers good advise besides get to a hospital. It's well stated and I'll not restate if as they've done an excellent job.
    http://newyorksearchandrescue.org/do...snakebite.html

    Lastly, I talked to many ER doctors and they generally state that mostly they don't need to treat snake bits, beyond possible infections, as few have venom injected.
    good article and advise

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyoming View Post
    Btw rattlesnakes do NOT rattle a lot of the time.

    I'm not sure about Western Diamondbacks, but the Eastern Timber Rattlers are slowly having the instinct to rattle bred out of them.
    Rattling a warning gets them killed by wild hogs,......as well as people who think the only good snake is a dead snake.
    Selective breeding will, over time significantly reduce the instinct to buzz the tail. The wild boar in the Cherokee Nat Forest will eat them like finger food at a cocktail party.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredt4 View Post
    What to do IF bitten (and that's a big if),

    1. Slowly move away from anyone with an extractor or snake bite kit.

    2. Situational Awareness, if you can get to a medical facility, then proceed with all due haste.

    3. If you can't take heart that few snake bites need medical attention, problem is you're unlikely to know if you need medical attention immediately after a bite, hence get to a medical facility if possible.

    4. If it takes a long time to get to a medical facility then by the time you get there you'll know if you need anti-venom, so don't panic if nothing seems to be happening, there probably wasn't any venom injected. When you get to a medical facility have them clean the wound for possible infections.

    5. The following website is the only site that I've seen that offers good advise besides get to a hospital. It's well stated and I'll not restate if as they've done an excellent job.
    http://newyorksearchandrescue.org/do...snakebite.html

    Lastly, I talked to many ER doctors and they generally state that mostly they don't need to treat snake bits, beyond possible infections, as few have venom injected.

    Great article. I didn't know there was a debate on whether you should restrict the flow of venom. I feel I am inclined to follow the advice in the article. But well be sure to avoid bites first.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredt4 View Post
    What to do IF bitten (and that's a big if),

    1. Slowly move away from anyone with an extractor or snake bite kit.

    2. Situational Awareness, if you can get to a medical facility, then proceed with all due haste.

    3. If you can't take heart that few snake bites need medical attention, problem is you're unlikely to know if you need medical attention immediately after a bite, hence get to a medical facility if possible.

    4. If it takes a long time to get to a medical facility then by the time you get there you'll know if you need anti-venom, so don't panic if nothing seems to be happening, there probably wasn't any venom injected. When you get to a medical facility have them clean the wound for possible infections.

    5. The following website is the only site that I've seen that offers good advise besides get to a hospital. It's well stated and I'll not restate if as they've done an excellent job.

    http://newyorksearchandrescue.org/do...snakebite.html

    Lastly, I talked to many ER doctors and they generally state that mostly they don't need to treat snake bits, beyond possible infections, as few have venom injected.
    I don't think the website offers good advise for a hiker - at least a lone hiker. If you immobilize the limb, you can't hike out and need to be carried. I still think the Extractor is a good idea.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ocourse View Post
    I don't think the website offers good advise for a hiker - at least a lone hiker. If you immobilize the limb, you can't hike out and need to be carried. I still think the Extractor is a good idea.
    SO give us some better advice

  19. #19

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    Probably the best thing you can do is check and see if you have phone service and call 911. Follow their instructions. If possible, take a picture of the snake. If you don't have phone service, hike on until you do. Don't run, just hike at a normal pace.

    I have a friend who was bit by a rattlesnake. He had to hike several hours before he could get help. They then flew him to the nearest hospital and gave him about 1/4 of the necessary dose of antivenin. It was a very long recovery and initially they didn't think he'd recovery fully. He was bit on the leg. He hikes with us now several years later and you'd never know he had been bitten. Despite them not giving him enough antivenin and despite the fact it took several hours (something like 6 hours) before he got it, and he even had to argue with them because they did not believe it was a snake bite at first, he did recover fully. I think it took about a year before he was back to normal.
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    I also heard recently of someone getting rattlesnake bit and ending up with a $150,000+ hospital bill, $83,000 just for the antivenom.

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