Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(7):1377

How can I avoid snakebites?

Most snakebites occur between April and October, when outdoor activities are popular. You can avoid snakebites by taking the following steps:

  • Avoid places where snakes may live. These places include tall grass or brush, rocky areas, fallen logs, bluffs, swamps, marshes, and deep holes in the ground.

  • When moving through tall grass or weeds, poke at the ground in front of you with a long stick to scare away snakes.

  • Watch where you step and where you sit when outdoors.

  • Wear loose, long pants and high, thick leather or rubber boots.

  • Shine a flashlight on your path when walking outside at night.

  • Never handle a snake, even if you think it is dead. Recently killed snakes may still bite by reflex.

What should I do if a snake bites me?

  • Stay calm.

  • If you see the snake, try to remember what it looks like. Do NOT approach the snake; don't try to catch it or to kill it.

  • Take off any jewelry or tight clothing near the bite quickly, before swelling starts.

  • Lift a bitten arm or leg so it is level with your heart.

  • Clean the bite wound. Be sure to wipe in the direction away from the wound.

  • If you think the bite was from a poisonous snake, get to a hospital as soon as you can. In most of the United States, you should have time to get medical help before the bite is a serious danger to your life.

  • If medical help is more than 30 minutes away, tie an elastic wrap two inches above the bite. The wrap should be loose enough to slip a finger underneath it.

  • Do NOT bleed the wound.

  • Do NOT try to suck the venom out of the wound.

  • Do NOT put ice on the bite

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