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Snake Bite First Aid for Trail Runners

Snake_BiteWe may have a general idea of  what we should do if bit by a rattle snake, but we could also be very wrong. Now that summer is here, the snakes are out, and since we are cruising the trails at breakneck speeds, it’s easy to miss a snake on the trail. But one misstep and bam… snake bite! What to do?  New Balance runner and coach Liza Howard gives some great tips on snake bite first aid for trail runners. Read on and learn what you really should do if you have the misfortune of getting bit by a rattle snake.

 

Snake Bite First Aid for Trail Runners

Scenario: You’re running out at Hill Country State Natural Area training for the Cactus Rose 100. You’re on the sotol torture trail near the Three Sisters when your left foot lands on this guy.

Rattlesnake

It was hard to tell what brand he was because as soon he bit through your minimalist trail shoe, he disappeared under the sotol.

You should:

A. Pull out your snake bite kit and suck the venom out
B. Fashion a constricting band out of your shoelace and tie it above the bite
C. Run back to the car and get ice out of your cooler and put it on the bite
D. Pull out your cell phone and call 911
E. Finish your training run, it was probably a dry bite and you need the miles

Instructor Key:

A.Pull out your snake bite kit and suck the venom out

Nope. The Saywer Extractor will not suck any venom out of a snake bite. Spend your $17 on something else at REI.

“At least three studies, done independently of each other and using different methodologies, arrived at the same conclusion-that the Extractor does not work for venomous snakebites and could make things worse.” This is from Paul S. Auerbach’s wilderness medicine bible, Wilderness Medicine. The Wilderness Medicine Institute also recommends against the use of extractors for snake bites. (They can be used to make fun hickey marks though.)

B.Fashion a constricting band out of your shoelace and tie it above the bite

Nope. Not for North American pit vipers. Our vipers here in North America — the rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths/water moccasins — have a tissue destroying venom that can do more damage when it’s confined to one area with a constricting band or a tourniquet.

The limb should be immobilized. So stop running and sit or lie down.

C.Run back to the car and get ice out of your cooler and put it on the bite

Nope. First, running is just going to circulate the venom around your body more quickly. Try to keep your heart rate low by sitting still and staying calm.

Second, ice isn’t helpful. The venom can cause all sorts of vascular damage and you don’t want to do anything that would reduce blood flow to the affected tissue further. Cold can make the injury worse. So save the ice to keep the beer cold. And put your taser away. Electrotherapy will only add insult to injury.

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It’s good do know we are not likely to die from a snake bite. Liz also makes the point that things always work out better when you run with a buddy. So if you get bit, stay calm and get someone to call 911. Anyone out there experience a snake bite?

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