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#118315 - 01/01/08 03:51 AM Can you buy antivenin?
CityBoyGoneCountry Offline

Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 369
While putting together my own customized FAK I've researched what the experts say to do in the event of a snake bite. They all say the same thing: evacuate to a hospital. They say those snake bite kits you see in stores don't work (then shouldn't it be illegal to sell them, in the interest of public safety???), and a Sawyer Extractor won't save your life, it just might buy you a little more time. crazy

Well, what if getting to a hospital is just not a possibility? What if you're too far away from a hospital? What if there's a SHTF scenario and you're basically left taking care of yourself indefinitely?

If I get bit by a snake am I supposed to just shoot myself in the head to make my death easier?

#118316 - 01/01/08 03:58 AM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: CityBoyGoneCountry]
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
"...If I get bit by a snake am I supposed to just shoot myself in the head to make my death easier..."

From what I have read (and please don't ask for a link or anything, I can't provide one, at least not right now), it is easily possible to survive the average snakebite without much of anything in the way of medical care. You would experience some (or lots) of pain, swelling, lightheadness, and possible loss of mobility of the limb bitten, but you would survive. So I would hold off on that headshot 'til the last minute...

#118326 - 01/01/08 04:42 AM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: OldBaldGuy]
ironraven Offline
Cranky Geek
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 09/08/05
Posts: 4642
Loc: Vermont
Echo that, most North American snake bites don't inject much toxin. Rattlers evolved to eat rabbits and the like- humans have a lot more mass than a rabbit. Now, if you fall into something like a nest of water moccasins you're probably just plain out of luck, but that is becuase you are going to be bit a LOT.

Buying antivenom... You can buy anything, if you have the right paperwork and permits, but for Joe Average who doesn't own/breed/sell poisonous snakes it could be difficult. It certainly is NOT shelf stable, it has to be in cold storage or it tanks pretty quickly. Even if stored properly, it has a shelf life. AFAIK, when it goes bad it just becomes inert, but don't quote me on that. I remember reading that anaphylaxis is not uncommon in cases where antivenom is applied, so...

And while rattlesnake venom is pretty much the same, no matter what bit you, coral snake is very different. Not sure on copperheads and cottonmouths, they are related vipers, and thus to rattlers. Then you've got spiders (sorry, nothing for the recluse) and scorpions. There is no universal shot.

When a man dare not speak without malice for fear of giving insult, that is when truth starts to die. Truth is the truest freedom.

#118327 - 01/01/08 04:44 AM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: CityBoyGoneCountry]
jaywalke Offline

Registered: 12/22/07
Posts: 172
Loc: Appalachian mountains
There are many more dangerous things to worry about in the U.S. I wouldn't hold up any one web article as proof, but the numbers in here match up with what I've heard before.


8000 bites a year from venomous snakes, and only 5-10 fatalities--those are some good survival odds. When you add in that most of those deaths are children (small bodies can't handle as much venom), you are left with the realization that snakes in the U.S. aren't a serious danger to a grown man.

Here's a peer-reviewed overview, if you want to hear it from doctors:

Now if you are in Australia, fire away! There are some seriously venomous buggers down there.

For U.S. comparison:
deaths from bee stings - at least 100 a year
lightning - 60 per year
traffic - 42,500 per year

#118329 - 01/01/08 05:10 AM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: OldBaldGuy]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Antivenin needs to be kept refrigerated.

It is very expensive these days, about $350 per dose, and sometimes you need several doses. (in the mid/late '70s, it cost about $19 a dose, IIRC.)

Some people are allergic to the antivenin. Doctors do a sensitivity test before they give the big dose.

Working for a vet in southern California for 12 yrs, we saw quite a few rattlesnake bites; once, three in one day (our record!). Nothing I've ever seen on TV or online shows what it looks like a day or two later. First the area swells enormously, turning darkish red. Then the skin starts to die and turns black. The dead skin eventually sloughs off. Of course, the area is usually bandaged to keep it clean. It takes quite a while for the skin to granulate in. People sometimes need skin grafts.

You are simply in no position to treat a snakebite without professional help. And there can be several variables: Some bites are what they call "dry" bites with no venom, as the snake can control how much venom they inject; it can depend on how big the bitten person is, and where they were bitten. A dog bitten on the tongue will probably die of suffocation. A person bitten in a vein may die in fifteen minutes. The quicker you get to help, the better off you'll be.

Avoidance is better than treatment. In snakey areas, walk with a staff, and poke it into areas when you want to put your hands or feet. Walk heavily. Snakes don't smell or see very well, they depend on vibration to tell if prey or a threat is near. Most American snakes usually only strike when they feel threatened or cornered, and are willing to leave the immediate area, given the chance. I don't know about foreign snakes.

Rattlers usually stay in the shade during hot weather, and come out into the open to bask on warm paths, roads or rocks when the sun goes down. Carry a flashlight and watch where you're walking.

Children are most at risk because of their small body size, and tend to require more antivenin. Teach your children not to put their hands in holes and out of site ledges. And teach them NOT to tease snakes. A big rattler has a pretty good striking distance.

I've spent a lot of time in the desert and have only seen three rattlers, and most of those when I was sitting quietly on a rock.

Baby rattlers can be as dangerous as their parents, simply because they can inject venom, but they don't have (enough) rattles to rattle in warning.

And you know that business about shaking out your shoes and clothes before putting them on in snake country? Well, it's true. And even if there aren't any snakes, it helps to unload the scorpions.

A snake that has bitten someone can't bite anyone else until his venom builds up. Actually, they can bite several times, as they can adjust how much venom they want to inject.

A snake whose head has been cut off can't do any harm. In reality, they can still do a convulsive bite, but tend to put more venom into it as control is not an issue.

An old pair of boots with snake venom or a snake's teeth in it can't hurt you, as the venom loses its strength when it dries.

A tourniquiet to stop blood flow is not the same kind of tourniquet that used to be recommended for snakebites on a limb. Unless the venom went directly into a vein or artery, the venom will be transported by the lymph system, not the venal system. If you put a tight tourniquet on a snakebite victim, you will kill the limb. John Wayne was never a doctor, his directors didn't know diddly about snakebites, and everything you've seen on TV and movies about treating snakebites is wrong. (How's THAT for a sweeping statement?)

Sue, who knows more about snakebites than electricity, by far

#118331 - 01/01/08 07:23 AM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: CityBoyGoneCountry]
ki4buc Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 11/10/03
Posts: 710
Loc: Augusta, GA
FYI, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (Florida) has one of the best anti-venom stock pile in the country.

Miami-Dade Anti-Venom Unit (venomousreptiles.org). The page repeatedly states call 911 first. May wish to have the number around if you own or could come into contact with any exotic snakes, and are in Florida.

Also, according to this press release coral snake anti-venom will no longer be in production in the United States.

#118333 - 01/01/08 08:14 AM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: ki4buc]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
"Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (Florida) has one of the best anti-venom stock pile in the country."

That's probably because it's got the best VENOM stockpiles in the country!

According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida has six venomous snakes: Diamondback Rattlers, Canebrake Rattlers, Pigmy Rattlers, Copperheads, Cottonmouths, and Coral Snakes. It has at least eight or ten non-venomous kinds.

p.s. Since coral snake antivenin won't be made in the U.S. (according to the article above) I googled to find who WOULD be producing it. And the answer is... no one.


#118347 - 01/01/08 02:00 PM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: jaywalke]
bsmith Offline
day hiker

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 589
Loc: ventura county, ca

Originally Posted By: jaywalke
Here's a peer-reviewed overview, if you want to hear it from doctors:

and what the doctors have to say: "Physicians should educate their patients on ways to prevent snakebites, as prevention is far preferable to treatment. Many bites can be easily prevented by using common sense."

and for me, that is being equipped to survive.

“Everyone should have a horse. It is a great way to store meat without refrigeration. Just don’t ever get on one.”
- ponder's dad

#118355 - 01/01/08 03:00 PM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: bsmith]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7191
Loc: southern Cal
Years ago I attended a talk by a Tucson doctor who had treated roughly 50 patients. The worst cases were small children bitten while around the house. The others were snake collectors, deliberately messing with the critters. Darwin award, anyone?

In twenty five years of SAR in the Tucson area, we had no cases of snakebite victims who needed rescue. lots of falls, though.

The aboriginal remedy for snakebite was to find a shady, comfortable spot and sit very still and quiet for about three days. Honeybees kill more people, year in and year out, than snakes You are more likely to need a kit for anaphylactic shock than a snakebite kit.
Geezer in Chief

#118362 - 01/01/08 03:30 PM Re: Can you buy antivenin? [Re: hikermor]
CityBoyGoneCountry Offline

Registered: 11/04/07
Posts: 369
Originally Posted By: hikermor
The aboriginal remedy for snakebite was to find a shady, comfortable spot and sit very still and quiet for about three days. Honeybees kill more people, year in and year out, than snakes

I'm not an expert. I would just be interested in knowing how many snake bite survivors did not receive antivenin, and survived entirely by sitting still for three days.

I've been stung by many a honeybee. I know I have no allergic reaction to them. An uncomfortable experience, yes, but for me personally I'm more worried about snakes and spiders and scorpions.

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