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VOTE: Snakebite Kit (Take it / Leave it)
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Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

VOTE: Snakebite Kit (Take it / Leave it) on 12/02/2008 15:12:44 MST Print View

I have read very few first aid lists which included a snake bite kit. Those that had it also usually had a full SAM splint and crutches. With that said, I figure I know my answer, but I decided to ask anyway. Should I carry one?

I have a Walmart-esque Coghlan’s snake bite kit which consists of a large rubber container which looks like a giant pill but serves as a venom extractor, a sterile scalpel, a nylon cord to serve as a tourniquet, and antiseptic swab. I commonly hike in snake prone areas and have come across numerous Copperheads and Timber Rattlers many times. Each time, I simply walked around them without incident.

My concerns aren’t that I fear snakes, because I really don’t, but that (1) I do most of my hikes solo, and (2) I’m an insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic and even small medical issues, especially internal and blood or immune system related, can be a big deal.

I’ve had a variety of survival medical training in the past, and in the past this kit would be highly suggested by doctors. Current thinking regarding dealing with a snake bites is to leave it alone and seek professional help which usually ends up being an anti-venom shot and tissue repair since novice scalpel activity is believed to merely hurt the skin more, venom extraction efforts are believed to merely push it further in the system, and tourniquets are believed to merely cut off flow to other parts of your body which you may be using to seek help.

Knowing all this, I still grapple with whether to carry it. It is, by far, the heaviest and most clumsy piece of first aid gear which I carry which is otherwise quite minimal.

If you aren’t a supporter of the kit, what suggestions do you have to minimize risks and further complications of snake bites assuming you get one even with your best efforts to avoid it?


Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re:VOTE: Snakebite Kit (Take it / Leave it) on 12/02/2008 15:27:42 MST Print View

Hi James,

>I have a Walmart-esque Coghlan’s snake bite kit which consists of a large rubber container which looks like a giant pill but serves as a venom extractor, a sterile scalpel, a nylon cord to serve as a tourniquet, and antiseptic swab.

We have to deal with some of the most venomous snakes around here in Australia, venom extraction is not that best treatment these days

check this site out for the latest first aid for snake bites

Snake bite first aid


Edited by tbeasley on 12/02/2008 15:29:18 MST.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Re:VOTE: Snakebite Kit (Take it / Leave it) on 12/02/2008 15:37:17 MST Print View

My understanding is that pressure wrap/immobilization described in that link is only for use on snake bites from certain species of snakes. You would not use that treatment on a rattlesnake bite in the US.

Leave the kit at home...

Roman Ryder
(RomanLA) - F

Locale: Southwest Louisiana
My 2 cents... on 12/02/2008 15:47:53 MST Print View

In the United States, you're not likely to die from a snake bite. The babies are typically more dangerous than the adults. They're afraid and will dump everything they've got into you. An adult isn't likely to waste it's venom on something it can't eat. Just avoid putting your self in places that are likely to have snakes. I'm careful when stepping over logs and walking near standing water. If you get bit, the main thing you need to do is stay calm to minimize your heart rate. Then make a decision if you're close enough to civilization to walk out or if you're going to have to just wait it out. Here's a question I've been meaning to ask...anyone think a snake bite is worth calling for rescue? (This should be interesting! lol)

Edited by RomanLA on 12/02/2008 15:48:46 MST.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
pit viper? on 12/02/2008 15:58:25 MST Print View

A pit viper bite is worth a rescue. The venom starts to digest your body and prompt treatment can prevent disfigurement.

I do not and would not carry a snake bite kit.

Craig Burton

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: VOTE: Snakebite Kit (Take it / Leave it) on 12/02/2008 16:06:23 MST Print View

Personally, my choice would be to not bring the kit. My research has given me peace of mind that a USA venomous snake bite on a healthy adult should not be feared as an imminent-death situation. To me, however, this doesn't mean that thoughts of trip abandonment and medical attention should be ignored.

Now your situation, on the other hand, sounds like it would be better addressed by a medical professional.

With that said, I heard of two sibling children in my town that were recently killed following rattlesnake attacks in their own yard. Given that, if I, personally, had a deficiency that significantly increased the odds of death or immobilization from snake venom I wouldn't think twice about bringing some form of self-treatment.

Charles Maguire
(hikelite) - F

Locale: Virginia
Snake bite Pressure Immobilization warning on 12/02/2008 16:08:05 MST Print View

What I have found during past research is that Pressure Immobilization (PI) is only effective for coral snakes and NOT pit vipers and has to be done very precisely to be effective. It works by slowing blood pressure to bite area by bandaging limb from below bite to above it then splinting.

***In order for PI to work the pressure from the bandage must be within a small range 40-70 mm Hg. Outside of this range it will not be effective at all.

There was a study done where 100 ER doctors and 100 lay people were taught how to properly apply Pressure Immobilization. After being taught only 13 of the 100 ER docs did it correctly and only 5 out of 100 lay people did it correctly.

Because of this the study concluded PI is not an effective treatment in delayed help situation. The Red Cross protocol is to keep patient calm, clean wound, apply dressing, splint, keep limb below heart, and get medical help asap. Prevention is actually best medicine (Red Cross Wilderness First Aid Basic Instructors manual).


Edited by hikelite on 12/02/2008 16:10:07 MST.

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
VOTE: Snakebite Kit on 12/02/2008 16:13:35 MST Print View

Leave it!

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Snakebite Kit on 12/02/2008 16:16:16 MST Print View

I would not take a snakebite kit in California. Save that weight for something else. Maybe in the South or a tropical-jungle country. Less is more!!!!

Tony Fleming
(TonyFleming) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Sawyer extractor? No on 12/02/2008 17:10:58 MST Print View

I'm suprised. I had previously read that the Sawyer extractor was the only field treatment that made a significant difference in removing venom. I carried one when hiking with groups (Boy Scouts), as part of the group gear.

However, doing a little online searching I found the following links which indicate the latest research does not support using the Sawyer extractor. It does not remove a significant amount of venom as previously indicated.

"Dr_Sean_Bush: I have studied the Sawyer Extractor Pump extensively and found that it does not remove enough venom to make a clinical difference. In fact, I wrote an editorial about it: "Snakebite venom suction devices don't remove venom--they just suck." You can access this editorial via PubMed or through the Venom ER web site."

Based on this research I will no longer carry the Extractor.

Thanks for bringing it up.


Charles Maguire
(hikelite) - F

Locale: Virginia
Re: Sawyer extractor? No on 12/02/2008 17:18:30 MST Print View

The Extractor has not been shown to work and is currently not recommended by Red Cross.

I do not carry a kit simply because they are not effective. To help protect yourself and reduce venomination and depth of bite you can wear gators or wear leather gloves if crawling over rocks. While this will not prevent snake bite it might help because bites limited to superficial tissues are less severe than those near blood vessels or deep in muscles.


Edited by hikelite on 12/02/2008 17:33:30 MST.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
You need a dog bite kit first on 12/02/2008 17:23:32 MST Print View

Leave the snake kit home! You will need a kit for a number of higher percentage bite first. (the Coghlan kit is worthless anyway, Sawyer is the only one that is recommended lately if you use one at all) You shouldn't use a kit unless you know what your are doing.

Here is the data on animal deaths in the US during 1991 thru 2001
Table 2. Rank order of animal-related fatalities in the United States (1991–2001)
Snake death survey

For an interesting read here is the link to more of the above information:

Three people a year die from snakes compared to Twenty Seven for Bees/wasps. Again don't put your effort carrying something that has a less chance killing you then a "Nonvenomous arthropod"
Is an arthropod a cousin to the Ipod?
I’m interested in the “Other Specified” animal, maybe that is the Sasquatch and they don’t want to tell anyone?
Sorry for the digression.

Edited by bestbuilder on 12/02/2008 17:41:10 MST.

Craig Burton

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: You need a dog bite kit first on 12/02/2008 17:51:41 MST Print View

Certainly other specified includes larger attacks. I read a sign in a GTNP campground earlier this year saying double-digit bear fatalities are reported in the Greater Yellowstone area... for some reason 27 human deaths per year rings a bell. I found that number hard to believe, and I am certain that the number is heavily inflated.

Others would be sharks and alligators -- which amount to probably close to 10 deaths per year.

Why the chart doesn't list those specific animals, I'm not sure. It seems the interest of the chart is aimed towards species that do not have a substantial size advantage over humans instead of some of the more, perceived, obvious species like bear, shark, alligator, etc.

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: You need a dog bit kit first on 12/02/2008 18:11:33 MST Print View

Interesting stats, but you can't help but wonder what the hell are those 'Other specified' 43.5% of fatalities.

"Hey Bubba look, what's that?"
"Never seen one of them Cecil, but it's flying towards us."
"Drop your pack and run, Bubba run!"
"Oh my God! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"

[Minutes later]

"Hello. This is the 911 operator. What is your emergency?"
"That thing, it, it just flew away with Cecil!"
"Sir, please calm down. What thing?"
"A pterodactyl."

[Months later]

"Hi. This is Homer at the National Accident Center and we need a know how to classify a pterodactyl fatality reported earlier this year near Bozman. Sounds pretty creepy."

"Well, it's best to add that one to the 'Other specified' count. We're keeping the lid on this one. Besides they only eat backpackers."

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: You need a SHEEP bite kit first on 12/02/2008 18:22:16 MST Print View

If you're coming to NZ, I would definitely leave the snakebite kit at home ;)

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Leave it... on 12/02/2008 18:51:38 MST Print View

Another leave it at home vote, backed up by WMI, where I got my WFR training; they amended their curriculum to say that studies have shown no value (indeed, possible damage) by using the extractor.

darren stephens
(darren5576) - F

Locale: Down Under
re on 12/02/2008 19:41:47 MST Print View

G’Day James
I agree with Tony. The kit you are talking about sounds very 1960’s. We are still currently taught the pressure immobilisation method and in my simple 1st aid kit there is a suitable bandage. Snakes dont really rate a mention around here. Around my farm in spring and summer we have heaps of eastern brown snakes which are generally referred to as the second most deadly snake in the world using common methods of measurement, and if I'm in long grass spraying weeds or moving timber etc I wear long gaiters and keep my bandage in my pocket.
That said I have only nearly been bitten once despite hundreds of snake encounters and that was because I was chasing one in long grass trying to kill it (??)
Since my kids have been able to comprehend they have been taught if they see a snake stand dead still, don’t flinch until it passes and they have used this in practice.
So I recommend just bringing a bandage and being aware if you’re in a snake prone area.
The reality for me is though as I always hike alone it would only prolong the inevitable.
So my best advice is don’t get bitten

Edited by darren5576 on 12/02/2008 22:54:50 MST.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
snakebite kit- take it in certain situations only on 12/02/2008 20:05:44 MST Print View

I have a Sawyer snakebite kit I got from REI. It cost around $15 and weighs about 1.5-2 ounces if you take the syringe and suction cups OUT of the big stupid plastic box and just stick them in your 1st aid kit. Not bulky or heavy at all by my standards.

For copperheads and timber rattlers, I would not bother bringing a snake bite kit. These may be venomous snakes, but they are extremely tame. I have never even seen one become agitated even after being poked repeatedly with a stick.

In the desert Southwest or anywhere you'll find a lot of aggressive venomous snakes, however, a snake bite kit is a good addition to your kit. People will say "oh, you don't need it, just go to a doctor, they don't work anyway, blah blah," but I've heard this line mostly from people who just don't have a lot of experience with snake bites in the backcountry. The fact is that a snake bite kit--particularly the vacuum syringe in the Sawyer kit I mentioned above--can remove some of the venom from a bite. Some. For snakes with hematoxic venom (the kind that kills your flesh), that counts for something! A lot of aggressive venomous snakes have hematoxic venom, which causes damage to your tissue relative to dosage, so the less venom, the less bruising/soreness/dead tissue/overall illness will result from the bite. Now I doubt the same is true for snakes that have neurotoxic venom (coral snakes for instance--a lot of Australian species also have neurotoxic venom). I think in the case of neurotoxins, no matter how much venom is injected, as long as there's more than a drop in your bloodstream you're pretty much screwed. However, I believe that most rattlesnakes in the United States have hematoxic venom so a snake bite kit is a good idea a lot of times, in the US at least.

Edited by artsandt on 12/02/2008 20:16:37 MST.

Roman Ryder
(RomanLA) - F

Locale: Southwest Louisiana
Coral Snakes on 12/02/2008 20:10:44 MST Print View

"Now I doubt the same is true for snakes that have neurotoxic venom (coral snakes for instance)."

You would have to screw up pretty bad to get bit by a coral snake. I had one pass between my daughter and myself a couple weeks ago and it's only interest was getting off the trail and hiding from us. It did help me to convince my daughters that they shouldn't be running around the camp site barefooted though. lol

Coral Snake

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Coral Snakes on 12/02/2008 20:46:36 MST Print View

Roman, I was hiking the loop trail at Enchanted Rock two weeks ago and almost stepped on a Texas Coral Snake in the That was the first one I had ever seen. Sorta scary.