Snakes are an incredibly resilient species of reptile, having adapted to the environments of all but one of the continents. The legless, reptilian creatures have long been the focus of many conflicted feelings in humanity. Western culture sees the snake as the representation of the devil, and therefore as representation of evil. The ancient Egyptians believed that the snake was a symbol of immortality and one particular species, the cobra, was revered as the guardian of the gods. Regardless of what view is taken, snakes are almost universally seen as venomous creatures, whose bite can bring everything from inflammation to excruciating death. Not all snakes are poisonous and not all snakes are prone to biting when threatened. However, there are still some common procedures to dealing with snake bites.
Firstly, it is often a good idea to try and identify what sort of snake did the biting. Most snakebites are made by snakes that are venomous. The venom can have a variety of effects on a person, with some capable only of causing nausea and vomiting in a human, while others can take a person down in a matter of minutes without proper treatment. Identifying the snake, or at least the general species of it, can potentially save the victim’s life. There is anti-venom for most of the venomous snakes in a given area, but it can take some time to determine which snake did the biting. This is because the anti-venom of a cobra or coral snake is not going to have much effect in preventing damage caused by a rattlesnake or copperhead. If the snake cannot be identified, then it is best to describe it in as much detail as possible once help arrives.
The next step to perform while waiting for help to arrive is to remove any restrictive clothing and tie a tight bands near the bitten area. These bands should ideally be placed a few inches above and below the bite area and serve to slow the spread of the poison by cutting off as much of the blood flow from the poisoned area as possible. However, a danger to this step is the possibility of tying the binds too tightly, which could lead to negative side effects later on.
Snake venom can be very destructive, with some of the more potent ones (notably that of the black mamba or certain species of viper) being capable of neural damage even in limited areas. It is critical that as much of the venom be removed from the wound as possible, to minimize the potential damage. There are commercially available kits for this sort of procedure and they are designed to be use regardless of the type of snake that did the biting. Suction of the poison can also be performed by mouth, but the person doing so should be careful not to ingest any of the poison himself.
Whenever possible, the snake should be caught, either for identification or for testing. In areas where there are multiple species of venomous snakes, identifying the specific type of snake venom involved can save time in finding the appropriate anti-venom. In the event that the anti-venom for the species is not readily available, poison control personnel can also attempt to extract the snake’s own venom and synthesize a batch of anti-venom directly from it. This may take time to perform, but there are usually drugs available that slow down (but cannot stop) the progression of the poisoning.