You can find snakes in the most unusual places. One time, while rock climbing I found myself just below a ledge about 100 feet above the forest floor. As I reached for a hold, I heard a rattle and sure enough, basking on a nice sunny piece of granite, was a baby rattlesnake.  I then made a wise decision: back down and let the snake do its thing without any human interference.

If you are bitten by a snake, first decide if the bite contained poison. Many snakes are not poisonous and as such there bites are harmless. Even poisonous snakes such as rattlers will not always release venom. Younger snakes, inexperienced in the art of conserving that venom, will often release more than is necessary. Older snakes may just bite and hold off completely with the venom.

Signs of a dangerous or poisonous snake bite are swelling of the area around the bite, redness, numbness, tingling and extreme pain. As the venom is absorbed through lymph channels it may take some more time before more serious things happens.  These include blood pressure drops, adverse effects on the heart and brain and even death.

What to do? Well, don’t suck out the venom you might actually make things worse. Ideally,  you should rest and have someone else get help. Resting, elevating and icing the extremity will decrease the amount of venom absorbed into the circulation, which is a good thing. There are antivenoms available from regional hospitals and zoos.

Just recently, a study showed that applying nitroglycerin cream to the bite area slowed adsorption from an average of 13 minutes to over 53 minutes. How? Well, nitroglycerin causes the lymph channels to constrict which in turn slows down venom adsorption. If approved by the FDA (still a few years out), hikers, zookeepers and others exposed to snakebites might have a quick and easy way to buy some time until antivenom is available.

By the way review of patient data shows clearly that the most common is snake bite victim is a young male, tatooed and drunk. Given the inherent lack of common sense exhibited by the human male along with some booze, it is no wonder why this is the case. I can’t say why tatoos except to theorize that tatooed guys may be a little more of risk takers.