Snakes Not So Charming in the Wild
Keep your eyes open
Nor does Kitchens feel that people hiking or camping in the
wilderness need worry about snakebites. He's often asked to provide snakebite
kits for people planning to walk the Appalachian Trail.
"I tell them you don't need a snakebite kit," he says.
"Just don't mess with snakes."
But if a snake does bite you, Kitchens recommends forgoing
field remedies like ice, tourniquets, or the cut-and-suck method made famous in
movies. It's not that they don't work. It's just that if not done properly, he
says, they can cause more harm than good. Instead, head for the nearest
"Antivenom works pretty damn good," Kitchens says.
"Usually you walk away with [no injury] at all. Most people bitten repair
Antivenom ideally should be administered within six hours after
a bite, and no more than 12 hours. But most snakebite victims don't receive
antivenom, Kitchen says. In fact, only 40% of those bitten by venomous snakes
are given the serum. That's because most snake venom isn't that toxic.
For instance, Kitchens says, pygmy rattlesnake or copperhead
bites aren't usually treated.
But antivenom is a lifesaver for the 10-15% of the people
bitten by the highly toxic Eastern or Western diamondbacks. Still, the
traditional horse-blood antivenom serum has its drawbacks.
"You can have an allergic reaction to the horse
blood" used to make the antivenom, Kitchens says. "With horse-blood
antivenom, 10% of the people will have an allergic reaction with hives, swelling, or shortness of breath."
The FDA recently approved a new sheep-blood-based antivenom,
which Kitchens says he believes will be easier to use and significantly
Bob Calandra is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in
several magazines, including People and Life. He lives in