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  • Although venomous snakebites are a serious medical emergency, the media, folklore, and superstition have exaggerated the potentially negative outcome of snakebites;
  • Males aged 10-29 years are most commonly bit by rattlesnakes (46%). In most cases, bites occur in the wake of risky and/or dangerous human behaviour.5

FIRST AID FOR HUMANS


WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BITTEN

Snakebites are a medical emergency and should be taken seriously. Within 15 minutes, most bites are recognizable by the development of discolouration, swelling, and pain at the site of the bite. Hospitals and doctors now receive specialized training in snakebite treatment and have quick access to a network of snakebite experts. With appropriate hospital treatment, no one has died from rattlesnake bites in Ontario.

IF A SNAKEBITE OCCURS THE MOST IMPORTANT ACTIONS ARE:

  • Do not panic. Remain calm. Reassure the bitten person. Remember that the person may have been bitten, but NOT envenomated. The calmer the person is, the better he/she can assist the hospital in ensuring a full recovery.
  • A calm person can assist doctors by answering questions about the incident and the snake in question important information doctors will use to assess your condition and appropriate treatments.
  • Staying calm is essential! The spread of venom, development of shock, and other medical reactions will be slower if the person stays calm. Call emergency services to request transportation to the hospital. Remember, there is time. Although a medical emergency, a doctor may opt for one or two hours of observation before deciding on treatment. Do not endanger yourself, the person who was bitten, or others by the reckless operation of a vehicle or boat in order to get to a medical facility or transfer point. To secure transportation to a hospital, one should call an ambulance or an emergency service.

FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITIES

  1. If possible, carry the patient or assist them in reducing activity. Ensure they are laying down while waiting for transportation. Remaining calm and inactive will slow the circulation of venom throughout the body.
     
  2. Wash and cleanse the wound.
     
  3. Remove any jewellery from the bitten limb in case of swelling.
     
  4. Splint the limb to reduce movement.
     
  5. DO NOT apply a tourniquet.
     
  6. DO NOT apply ice; DO NOT cut the bite area and apply suction.
 
5 (Leber, 1998:257)

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