Pop culture and provides us with a ton of information. Some of that information can be useful, but the majority of it is mostly for entertainment purposes and has little to no real world application. This is especially true of how snakebites are treated in Hollywood.
According to TV shows and movies, if someone gets bitten by a venomous snake the solution is simple – you cut where the person was bitten and you suck out the venom. Easy, right?
It turns out if you let someone cut you and suck on the venom after you get bit by a snake you’re just going to end up poisoned with two puncture wounds, a cut from a knife and a hickey on the affected area. Your friend on the other hand is mostly going to end up with a mouth full of blood that isn’t there’s while they increase the chances of your bite becoming infected. That doesn’t exactly sound like an awesome Friday night.
Even if all of that wasn’t true, cutting and sucking would still be a pointless thing to do because it only gets 1/1000th of the venom out. The same is true with those snakebite suction kits that look like a tiny air pump. They just simply don’t work.
This outdated technique of removing snake venom actually comes from an old army medical manual. Whether it be suction or even ice, they are all terrible choices in an equally terrible set of circumstances – they just keep the venom in one area, which increases the localized damage.
If you get bitten by a poisonous snake, there’s a great chance you’re going to survive. With only five people dying out of roughly 7,500 reported snakebites in the U.S. every year, you’re looking at pretty good odds of walking away alive from your slithery ordeal.
Here’s exactly what to do if you do get bit:
Remove any rings, watches, and other jewelry in anticipation of swelling. Cover the bite with a clean dressing, but not a pressure dressing. Don’t panic (if you can control yourself) and try to keep your heart rate down. Keep the bitten area below the heart. Monitor for shock. Get to the doctor ASAP. You may have a “coppery” or metallic taste in your mouth if you did receive a dose of venom, but about 30 percent of bites from adult snakes are “dry bites” (no venom injected). If you did receive any venom, you’ll need to be treated with anti-venom. And it’s the same medicine for water moccasin, copperhead, and rattlesnake bites. Hope you have good insurance—otherwise it’s an expensive shot.