First Aid for Pit Viper Snakebite
- Stay as calm as possible, since an elevated blood pressure increases the absorption of venom.
- Identify the snake if possible. A photo, safely taken, can be useful.
- The snake's reflexes persist even after beheading. Bites have occurred by "dead" and decapitated snakes.
- Remove jewelry.
- If transportation is delayed, lightly splint / immobilize the extremity after marking and timing the leading edge of the swelling. Mark the leading edge every 15 minutes and include the time.
- Avoid any exercise if at all possible. Allow someone to carry you to transportation.
- Keep the extremity level to slightly below heart level. Do not elevate.
- If the Extractor® is used, limit it to one minute to prevent local tissue damage from the powerful suction.
- Do not eat or drink anything.
- Avoid making incisions and wrapping the extremity. Do not apply ice, heat, tourniquet, or electric shock.
- If a constricting band is in place, do not remove it (loosening may be required as the area swells, however). See NOTE below.
- Do not administer any medicines.
- If no ambulance transport is involved, transport to the nearest emergency room in a calm manner, obeying speed limits and traffic lights. Strive to keep the victim calm.
If in doubt, call contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
NOTE: The subject of constricting bands remains prevalent. Generally, no band should be applied because most victims can reach an emergency room before a life-threatening amount of venom can distribute. Time parameters regarding any application of a band are not very helpful because the important factor is venom load, which varies from none to heavy. Judgment is called for in deciding whether to apply a band. Generally, if one is becoming symptomatic and is hours away from help (again, an unlikely event) it may be reasonable to apply a less than firm band above the bite site on the extremity to slow the spread of venom through the lymphatic system, not venous or arterial. If a blood pressure cuff is used, the typical instruction of being able to insert a finger under the band/cuff means a pressure of only about 5 mm Hg. Once the band is applied it should not be removed except in the emergency room after antivenom is available; however, it may need to be loosened as the area swells.