How to Treat a Snakebite

The only thing worse than being bitten by a snake is not knowing what to do.


  • : Snakebites are serious. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Step 1: Call 911 Call 911 before you do anything. Or, if you can, drive straight to the nearest emergency room. We don’t want to scare you, but snake venom can lead to amputation of the infected limb if it’s not treated quickly.
  • Step 2: Know what not to do Know what not to do. Don’t have someone suck out the venom (they’ll infect the wound and make themselves sick); don’t put ice on the bite or try to cool it off in any way; don’t make a tourniquet, unless you want to lose the limb; and don’t cut into the bite.
  • Step 3: Keep the bite area below heart level If you’re waiting for help to arrive, keep the bite below heart level.
  • Step 4: Loosen clothing Loosen or remove any tight clothing around arms and legs.
  • Step 5: Wash the bite Wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • Step 6: Look into the snake’s eyes If you or someone else managed to kill the snake, look into its eyes. Vertical pupils indicate poisonous snakes, while round pupils are usually the sign of harmless ones. In any case, bring the dead snake to the ER with you.
  • TIP: The exception to the pupil rule is the coral snake, which has round pupils and bands of red, yellow, and black. So remember this little ditty: 'If red touches yellow, it can kill a fellow.'
  • Step 7: Avoid future bites Avoid future bites by looking before you step—or put your hand into any tall brush or dark crevice. In the wild, use a walking stick to sweep the area in front of you as you stroll. And if you do see a snake, slowly back away from it!
  • FACT: Fewer than 10 people die annually in the United States from snakebites.

You Will Need

  • Medical attention
  • Soap
  • Water

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