Now that the rattlesnakes have left their dens and are out on the prowl I thought it best to share what to do and what not to do in case of snakebite. I’ve had many encounters with rattlers including a face to face meeting a few years ago. Lucky for me it was a cold October day.
Recently I received a letter from a True West reader asking about a western movie where they poured gunpowder on a snakebite to cauterize the wound.
I’ve heard dozens of odd treatments for snakebites and because of infection most did more damage than good. Snakebites usually occurred on an extremity and folk treatment was to put a tourniquet above the bite then cut an X over the wound and suck the out poison. Another was to cauterize it with either a hot iron or pour gunpowder on the bite and light it. Another folk remedy was to put cow manure on the bite. One of the strangest I’ve run across suggested killing the snake and cut off the fleshy part of body and place against the wound. It was believed the venom had more affinity for the snake than the human and would return to the snake.
Best advice I can give for dealing with a snake bite is first, don’t panic. Oftentimes it’s a dry bite. That snake can’t eat you and doesn’t want to waste venom. The young ones are the most dangerous since they haven’t learned to preserve their venom. Stay calm and get medical care as quickly as possible. While waiting for help lie as still as possible to keep your heart from beating fast.
Contrary to what used to be standard procedure; do not apply a tourniquet and do not apply ice.