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Hiking in Snake Country - May 13, 2014



To quote Dr. Indiana Jones, "Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?" As the weather heats up both hikers and snakes start to venture out more often. If you're not keeping a close eye out for them then you could end up with a snake bite. So here are some tips on how to avoid snake bites and what to do if you happen to wander a little too close to one of those slithering serpents. Read More ...

Tip #1 - Keep Your Eyes (and Ears) Open

Chances are you're going to hear a snake before you see it. It's a good idea to turn off your music and let your ears enjoy the peaceful splendor of the hike. Aren't you out in nature to enjoy it, rather than your music, anyway? Make sure your eyes are just as open as your ears; be sure you've looked on and around anything that you plan to sit or lie on. Snakes like to hide in the shadows and can easily be disturbed by you plopping down next to them. If you need to pick something up off the ground be sure to check it out before you pick it up. Snakes are naturally camouflaged and can be hard to see. If you've left your boots or pack lying on the ground for a while take care when you pick them up to put them on.

Tip #2 - Protect Yourself

Protective footwear such as snake boots and gaiters help keep you protected from snake bites. Most bites occur on the foot or ankle so it's a wise idea to have a reliable pair of snake boots to take with you when you're hiking in snake country. Also do yourself a favor and don't put your hands or feet some place where you can't see.

Tip # 3 - Give them Another Target

Hiking with a buddy is a great way to keep yourself from being bit. This will give you twice as much vision and hearing so you can spot them before they strike. Carrying a trek pole or walking stick also gives you something for the snake to bite instead of your feet or legs. Remember, when you're going hiking in snake country, two is better than one, unless those are two snakes.

Tip #4 - Don't Do Dumb Stuff

This should go without saying, but you shouldn't harass or attack snakes that you come across. This will likely only get you bitten and your buddies will probably let you know that you were asking for it. Remember, these snakes are scared and are trying to protect themselves, don't make things worse by making them more agitated. Most people end up getting bit because they tried to kill the snake or chase it off the trail.


So You Got Yourself a Snake Bite, Now What?


Go get yourself some medical help. The primary reason people die from venomous snake bites is because they didn't seek medical aid. So if you get bit, suck it up and find a way to get to a hospital. In addition to getting medical aid, here are some Do's and Don'ts for snake bites. As this is just general advice it should not be used in place of real medical consultation. Be sure to immediately consult a medical professional in the case of any snake bite injury.

DO remain calm - Many snake bites are dry bites, where the snake doesn't release any venom. Between twenty five to fifty percent of all snake bites are dry bites. Getting worked up will only make things worse.

DO clean and dress the wound - Cleaning the wound will help prevent infection. You know what's worse than a snake bite? An infected snake bite.

DO remove any constricting clothing or jewelry - I know tight pants are all the rage these days, but if you get a snake bite you'll want to cut those skinny jeans before the swelling starts. Same thing goes for any rings, bracelets or other jewelry you might you might be wearing.

DO immobilize the limb - Try to keep from using the part of the body that was bitten. This will help keep the venom from spreading.

DO have someone help carry you - Remember how I said it's nice to have a buddy hiking with you? Well, if you get bit then it's really nice to have a buddy carry you back out and save your sorry skin.

DON'T use a tourniquet - This can damage nerves and cut off blood flow, when that bite starts to swell you're going to do more damage than good.

DON'T try to suck out the venom - Yep, it's a really bad idea. If you have even the smallest lesion or cut in your mouth, or even if you just flossed too hard, you could be at risk to have the venom enter your bloodstream particularly close to your heart and brain.

DON'T apply ice packs - All this is going to do is make things worse. You can damage tissue by applying ice so just avoid it.

DON'T drink alcohol or caffeine - Alcohol will only speed up the absorption of venom and caffeine will speed up you heart rate and move the venom throughout your body quicker.

DON'T try to capture or kill the snake - We've all heard the story of Valentin Grimaldo who grabbed the snake that bit him, bit off its head, and used its skin as a tourniquet. It sounds like a Chuck Norris joke, but he really did it. And unless you're Valentin or Chuck Norris you shouldn't try it, chances are you'll just end up getting bitten again and be in for more problems. Just try to remember what color, size, shape and markings the snake had so doctors can better treat you.

Snakes are no joke. If Indiana Jones was scared of them, then you probably should be too. Thousands of careless and unlucky hikers end up falling victim to snake bites every year. Keep yourself protected using snake boots and be sure to keep an eye and ear out for any danger that might be in your path.



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