Summer is finally upon us. Millions of Americans are enjoying the great outdoors or tending their crops and likely just a few feet away from a snake at any given moment.
Snakes terrify many people unnecessarily. They are really more afraid of us than we are of them. Seriously folks, they are not lying in wait for human flesh 24/7. Unless startled, snakes rarely strike out and sink their sharp teeth into the skin of equally startled people. However, snake bites do happen, and it is far better to learn how to deal with such wounds now instead of waiting until after you can't call 911.
Last summer some very young copperheads were swimming in the shallow water next to a bank where my trusty horse Ruby stopped for a drink. The watering hole was down a narrow embankment and had only enough room for a few horses to water at a time before moving along up the other side and back onto the trail.
Thankfully, my Ruby did not notice the tiny copperheads. Another horse and rider were making their way down the slope after I saw the baby snakes, and several more were lined up for their turn as well. I whispered the word, "copperheads" as calmly as possible without moving Ruby's head a single hair. I told the other riders to back up, and they did so with as much speed and quiet as they could muster.
I must have been living right, because Ruby finished her drink without either noticing or startling the baby copperheads and we turned away from the water and started back on the trail.
Ruby and I had a near miss with snakes that could have turned extremely painful for not only her and me, but for the other horses and riders, if she had panicked and bolted. I had a snake bite kit in the first aid kit in my saddle bags, and now many of my fellow trail buddies do as well.
Sadly a young girl in my town was not so lucky recently. The girl was walking in her own backyard when a copperhead bit her on the foot. The home is barely out of the corporation limits and she was not hiking in flip-flops in an overgrown area — she just put her foot in the wrong place and the wrong time and startled the sleeping snake.
Since we live in a rural area where three different types of venomous snakes exist, one would think the local hospitals would be prepared to treat snake bites. Well, we all know what happens when you go assuming. The EMS got to the girl in under two minutes and radioed the hospital they were on the way. The hospital told the first responders to have the girl flown to Children's Hospital, which is about an hour and a half away in the state capital. Unfortunately for the girl, a summer storm was brewing and MedFlight could not go to the second hospital of choice, but had to go for option three, which was farther away and across the river into another state.
The situation with the little girl bitten by a copperhead got me to thinking a lot more about snake bites. Even during good times, this child's life was still left hanging in the balance because of ill-equipped local hospitals and weather. My horse, which could possibly be our only mode of transportation after the SHTF, almost lost her life because of venomous snakes as well.
Since I approach prepping as a form of insurance and from an educational mindset, I appreciate when life points out the shortfalls in our preparedness plan now instead of after the TEOTWAWKI happens.
After hopping online to order some more snake bite kits, ample for use by our family and tribe as well as some extra for barter, I started learning more about tending to venomous snake bites.
I am not a medical professional and have thankfully not had to try to put any of my new snake bite first aid knowledge into practice, but I feel the tips are useful information all preppers should commit to memory and investigate further.
Survival First Aid Snake Bite Tips
- Place dampened activated charcoal onto the snake bite wound at the fang entry point as soon as possible. If the snake's fangs did not leave large enough holes for the activated charcoal to seep through, making a shallow cut on the marks might be necessary. Cover the snake bite with cotton fabric, a bandage, medical tape, or virtually any other clean protective covering you have on hand. Press and firmly hold the activated charcoal to the wound and dampen the charcoal again if it becomes dry.
- Some survival first aid experts also suggest taking at least 2 teaspoons of dampened and activated charcoal powder internally after making the wound poultice. If the charcoal is not dampened thoroughly the dust can cause lung and health issues when inhaled.
- Tourniquets pose danger when used improperly or for too long and can lead to the loss of a limb even if used correctly. But, in some circumstances, tourniquets can also be life-saving. You must decide if the risk of using a tourniquet is worth it when faced with a venomous snake bite. If a tourniquet is used, write "TK" on the forehead or near the wound, and the time that it was applied to make sure it is not left on too long. Some folks feel that putting a tourniquet on "just tight enough" to slow the flow of blood without actually stopping its circulation will allow activated charcoal or other snake bite treatments to take effect before the venom is flowing freely in the body.
- Echinacea oil is also often considered a vital part of a snake bite first aid kit. The oil is believed to help neutralize the venom and was often used by Native Americans. Echinacea is known to boost the immune system and help fight infections. Some natural medicine advocates suggest taking a "large dose" of the oil after being bitten and repeating the process every six hours for several days. Gargle the oil in your mouth for as long as possible to allow it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. In the event of a snake bite, we strongly recommend taking a large dose of echinacea supplements and repeating every 6 hours.
- Activate charcoal is not believed to have any positive effect on snake bite after the first 24-hours. Applying moistened bentonite clay on the wound is thought to help fight the snake venom. The bentonite clay can be mixed with echinacea oil to help bolster its effectiveness.