Originally Posted by SummerStorm
Traditional snakebite treatment does more harm than good, study says
New York Times
Published Aug 1, 2002 SNAK01
Most people know how to treat a snakebite: Apply a tourniquet above the site, cut the skin, suck out the poison, spit it out -- and remind the victim to be more careful in the future.
But according to a new study, what everyone knows is wrong. Researchers report today in the New England Journal of Medicine that this method often does more harm than good because it delays prompt medical care and can contaminate the wound. The best course, they say, is to get the injured person to a medical facility as soon as possible.
"These old anecdotal methods of treating snakebites are outdated and really should be abolished," said Dr. Barry Gold, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins medical school and lead author of the study. "In most cases they just complicate the wound and cause a delay in getting treatment. Venomous snakebites require aggressive emergency medical care and, if necessary, anti-venom to fight the potentially fatal poison."
Symptoms of a venomous snakebite -- pain, swelling, nausea and weakness -- usually begin within 30 to 60 minutes but may be delayed for several hours. As long as a victim arrives at a medical facility within two hours of a venomous bite, Gold said, there is an excellent chance of survival.
Gold and his co-authors based the study on a review of the scientific literature.
They found that cutting, sucking, or applying a tourniquet or ice to a snakebite can infect the bite and damage nerves and blood vessels. In some cases, they found, immersing the afflicted limb or extremity in ice can lead to a greater likelihood of amputation.
After a bite from any venomous snake, the researchers wrote, a victim should be kept warm with the injured part of the body placed below the level of the heart. Rings, watches and constrictive clothing should be removed, and no stimulants should be administered.
"The first thing people think after a snakebite is that they're going to die," said Dr. Robert Barish, associate dean for clinical affairs at the University of Maryland medical school and a co-author of the study. "But in reality very few people die from snakebites, and those that do die six to eight hours after bites, so you actually have plenty of time to get to a medical facility."