What To Do If Bitten By A Snake While Hiking? – Dos & Don’ts

What To Do If Bitten By A Snake While Hiking

The possibility of a snakebite is a constant variable of a hiking trip. Although there are less than a dozen victims who suffer death from a venomous snakebite every year, it is still a matter that you need to worry about, not to mention be prepared for when you embark on a hiking adventure.

According to experts, the fear of a snakebite is more dangerous than the actual injury. Does that put you at ease? Of course, not. It isn’t the fang marks that put you in immediate danger, but what you do and don’t do after the unfortunate accident.

If you learn about the potential odds involving adventures and emergency methods to deal with those odds, you could come back home unscathed with precious memories.

How To Recognise Whether You’re Bitten By A Venomous Rattlesnake?

A snakebite doesn’t put you in real danger unless the attacker is a rattlesnake or other poisonous type. You’ll be in pretty hot waters if you don’t take timely action. For that, you will first have to recognise the rattlesnake bite.

Since the fangs of a rattlesnake immediately inject the venom, your ideal response timeline is the first couple of hours. The alternative is pretty bleak if you left the wound untreated: suffer critical illness or death. Aside from pain, burning sensation and swelling in the bitten area, other telltale symptoms of a venomous rattlesnake bite are:

  • Skin discoloration
  • Shallow breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating and clammy skin
  • Numbness in limbs.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Shock (it could also lead to a stroke).

According to a Family Medicine Specialist named Dr Judith Marcin, MD, treat it as a medical emergency and call for help immediately if the victim is showing these symptoms. Also, take the necessary first aid steps regarding snake piercings to mitigate the threat and buy time for proper medical treatment.

Here’s What “To Do” or “Not To Do” If Bitten By A Snake While Hiking

You must learn these necessary dos and don’ts regarding dealing with snakebites to mitigate the situation. Following these guidelines will help you get through this painful mishap with the least harm.


The DOs:

  • It would help you a lot if you could recognise the type, size and colour of the snake. But, don’t waste crucial minutes by hunting the convict and risking more injury.
  • Time is of the essence. Immediately call for the nearest emergency medical help facility.
  • It sounds easier said than done, but do not panic or freak out. Try to be as calm, still and optimistic as possible.
  • Force your heartbeat to return to a normal pace.
  • If possible, tie a loose sling or splint around the bitten part to make it immobile or minimize its movement, at least.
  • If the bite is on your arm or hand, remove constricting clothing and items like a watch, bracelet or ring because of the swelling.
  • If the bite is on the limb, using a splint will help.
  • Any object that can remain stiff can be used as a splint.
  • Make sure to keep the affected part below the heart level to prevent the toxin from spreading throughout your bloodstream and lymphatic system.
  • Cleanse the infected area with soap and water.


The Essential Don’ts:

Avoid Exertion

Don’t let the victim engage in strenuous activity. It is better to let your hiking buddy carry you to safety. Now you know why hiking alone is not a sensible thing to do.

Avoid Cut & Suck

Forget the Hollywood techniques of cutting and sucking the bite. The hiking knife/blade that you’ll probably use to slash the wound will not be sterile and will risk infection. Besides, sucking out the venom through your mouth or a suction device is not considered safe as it could put you in danger as well.

Avoid Tourniquet

Don’t apply a tourniquet or a constriction belt around the bitten area. It hinders the body’s immune system to attack the venom by cutting off blood flow. The restricted blood circulation prevents the toxin from getting diluted and spreading. Venom concentration in one place means rapid destruction of cells and tissue damage in that part of the body.

Avoid Ice

Don’t put ice on the bite. While it may numb the pain, experts still do not recommend it. The reason is the same: the ice restricts healthy blood circulation to the bitten area.

Avoid Eating/Drinking

Don’t allow the snake victim to eat or drink anything without the consent of medical staff, especially not aspirin and alcohol. Both are capable of thinning your blood; you don’t need that to make the situation worse.

Avoid Ointment

Applying ointment to the infected area or cleansing it with alcohol is a terrible mistake. Don’t do that. Just stick to soap and clean water for wiping the snakebite.

Preventative Measures

You could avoid such painful accidents by taking the following preventative measures:

  • Respect snake’s personal space; it will respect yours.
  • Hike during those parts of the day or season when snakes are lying dormant.
  • Never go for a hiking trip without wearing snakeproof gears (snakeproof boots, gaiters or chaps) to guard easily accessible parts of your anatomy against fangs.
  • Keep a first aid kit for a fang-puncture emergency.


Coming across a snake during hiking is a possibility, and so is an unexpected snakebite. Contrary to popular belief, snakebite is not fatal, especially if it’s non-venomous. You just need to be fully equipped and educated to address the unfortunate incident immediately to avoid severe harm.

About the author

Clinton Newman

Clinton Newman is a herpetologist and part-time blogger who loves to study snakes and their behavior. He is always called by neighbors to help them catch or get rid of snakes in their houses. . He's a passionate traveler and does a lot of Hiking and Hunting Adventures. His favorite places are Forests, Deserts, and Mountains. Now, he's guiding other Hikers to hike safely through this blog by reviewing the top best picks gears for safety and also guiding on Snakes and ways to deal with them.