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Whether you’re hiking through the Arizona desert, trekking through the Amazon, or perhaps exploring the tropics of Northern Queensland where pythons have been known to swallow Australian crocodiles whole, chances are you may come into contact with a snake at some point during your trip.
And, after having stepped on a venomous cottonmouth in Florida, watched as a boa wrapped itself around our camera tripod recently in Joshua Tree (see featured image above!), and aggravated a deadly rattlesnake in Arizona, trust us, we would definitely know!
Snakes are found all throughout the world except for Antarctica, Iceland, Ireland, Greenland and New Zealand, so unless you’re limiting your travel to these destinations only, it’s important for every avid hiker to be prepared with first aid knowledge of how to treat snakebite. Most snakes are found in tropical regions, though they inhabit many landscapes including in the water, forests, deserts and prairies.
As a global traveler it’s important to be prepared – the following are essential tips and tricks you should be aware of re snakebite for emergency situations while hiking abroad. Would you believe, all photos are our own!
#1 Don’t Be Afraid
The most important thing to do if you are facing a snake or have been bitten by one is to stay calm…easier said than done! Becoming excited means your heart beats faster which increases the flow of blood to the affected area and increases the amount of toxin able to find its way into your tissues.
Most snakes would choose to slither away than fight a human, and don’t aggressively bite things out of malice. Snake venom is used to subdue prey which would otherwise be impossible to eat, so they don’t generally like to waste their venom.
That being said if their only escape route is a past a human with a shovel they are likely to react aggressively!! Like-wise, as we found out in Florida once, if you step on one they’re also likely to strike out and try to bite!
As excellently put by the Florida Museum of Natural History, “you may be able to safely feed squirrels in a city park, but if you grab one of the squirrels, chance are it will bite and scratch you out of fear.”
“Most people would not condemn squirrels because they defend themselves by biting and scratching. Snakes defend themselves mostly by fleeing, but they might bite if captured or harmed. However biting is not a sign that they are dangerous, it is just the only way that most snakes have to defend themselves. Some snakes might also exude a smelly musk or defecate on the human or other animal that is threatening them.”
Most people are bitten on the hands and arms handling or trying to kill a snake. Therefore, if you are uncertain of its identity do not try to catch or even kill a snake. Only take it to the emergency room for identification purposes if you are absolutely sure it is already dead.
People don’t realize that for a short time after a snake is killed, its reflexes may continue to work. A snake can actually bite for several hours after it’s dead.
One Texas woman in 2013 was so afraid of a snake in her backyard she tried to kill it by dousing it in gasoline and setting it on fire. The snake slithered around the backyard in a frenzy until her house was burnt to the ground. Sadly, I’m not kidding.
#2 Administer First Aid
If you find yourself in a situation where you have been bitten by a snake, ensure that movement is restricted, and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom. Creating a loose splint will help restrict the movement of the area. Do not use a tourniquet.
Be sure to remove any rings or constricting items so that the affected area does not swell.
If the area of the bite begins swelling or changing color the snake was most likely poisonous.
Monitor the person’s vital signs (temperature, pulse, rate of breathing and blood pressure if possible). If signs of shock are showing (i.e paleness) lay the person flat with their feet raised about a foot and cover them with a blanket.
#3 Get Medical Help Immediately
Get medical help immediately. The only acceptable treatment for venomous snakebite involves the use of antivenin, and if you’re hiking in a remote location and require an emergency medical evacuation this is where your international health insurance comes into play.
Do not wait for symptoms to kick in before visiting the emergency room; an untreated venomous snakebite is a serious medical condition which can result in death. If traveling with others let them drive you – some bites can cause wooziness and you can hurt your self and others around you if you try to drive.
If you know you’ll be hiking through snake country, prepare for medical emergencies by familiarizing yourself with the contact information of the hospitals and clinics located in and around your destination. It’s always good to know where the nearest trusted doctor is…just in case!
#4 Don’t Travel Without Health Insurance
Make sure your health insurance is up to date before you travel abroad, and make sure that your policy includes coverage for emergency medical evacuations. Evacuation coverage typically covers expenses associated with a medical emergency that requires you to travel to find the nearest qualified medical facility, and this may just save your life should you find yourself in a life threatening situation abroad.
International Health Coverage with GeoBlue provides fantastic insurance for emergency medical evacuations, and this service is available 24/7 no matter where in the world you decide to hike. They have an elite network of doctors from most every specialty ready to see you in over 180 countries, and GeoBlue doctors and hospitals bill them directly so you don’t have to even worry about filing a claim, and you don’t have to lay out any cash.
If you choose not to call for an emergency evacuation and drive to the hospital yourself, the GeoBlue mobile app will allow you to quickly locate the medical facilities closest to your destination.
For more information about coverage with GeoBlue, or to obtain a free quote, contact Timothy Jennings at IndividualHealth.com.
A health insurance broker we trust, Timothy has worked in the international and US domestic market for more than 30 years and offers travelers a range of different options on plans and coverage including short-term travel medical (generally less than 6 months), annual renewable coverage for expats, and coverage for business groups worldwide.
Email him at <email@example.com> or:
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