11 Positive Things to Do if Bitten by a Snake while Hiking

Bitten by a Snake

What should you do if you or someone you’re hiking with gets bitten by a snake? This informative guide covers first aid, treatment, dangerous snakes, and prevention.

Snake bites can be scary, but try to remain calm. With quick action and emergency care, most people recover fully.

Stay Calm and Assess the Situation

If bitten, the first thing to do is stay calm. Panicking increases blood flow, causing the venom to circulate faster.

Examine the wound to determine if it is bleeding or has fang marks. Look around for the snake that bit you, taking note of its size, color patterns, and head shape if possible. This information can help identify whether it is venomous.

If hiking with a partner, send them to get medical help right away while you stay put with the bite below heart level.

Identify the Snake

Venomous or Non-Venomous

It’s crucial to find out if the snake is venomous, as non-venomous varieties account for about 80% of bites. Poison Control can use a photo or description to give treatment advice specific to the snake species.

Venomous snakes in North America can be remembered by the acronym C.O.R.A.L.S.:

  • Copperheads
  • Cottonmouths
  • Rattlesnakes
  • A FIDDLE!!! — CorAl Snakes

Symptoms of a Venomous Bitten by a Snake

Venomous snake bites cause immediate burning pain, redness and swelling around the fang marks, numbness, tingling, and severe nausea.

Other signs include enlarged lymph nodes, bruising, low blood pressure, blurred vision, droopy eyelids, dizziness, fainting, and respiratory difficulty. These require prompt emergency treatment.

First Aid for Snake Bites

If bitten by a venomous snake, quick first aid can buy time until antivenom treatment.

Clean and Immobilize the Wound

Wash the area gently with soap and water if possible. Remove watches, rings, etc, before the area swells.

Immobilize the bitten limb at heart level to slow venom absorption. A splint helps prevent movement.

Keep the Wound Below Heart Level

Keeping the wound lower than the heart uses gravity to slow venom circulation. Carry small children to avoid leg movement.

Remove Jewelry and Constricting Items

Rings, watches, bracelets, boots, etc. must be gently removed before swelling traps circulation.

Treat for Shock

Have the victim lie down, covered to avoid chilling. Offer reassurance while monitoring breathing. Shock can cause blood pressure and oxygen levels to drop.

Do Not Cut or Suction the Wound

Myths abound about snake bite first aid, but cutting/suctioning causes more damage and doesn’t remove venom.

Splinting and emergency transport are best. Also do not use tourniquets or ice packs.

Bitten by a Snake
11 Positive Things to Do if Bitten by a Snake while Hiking 1

Seek Emergency Medical Care

All venomous snake bites warrant a trip to the ER, even without symptoms. Effects can show up hours later.

Call 911

EMTs can administer lifesaving interventions en route to the hospital. Tell them the snake type if possible.

Transport to Hospital

Antivenom rapidly reverses snake bite effects, but is only given under medical supervision due to allergic reaction risks.

IV fluids, pain management, tetanus shots, and other care may be needed. Healing takes several days to weeks depending on severity.

Types of Venomous Snakes

North America’s main families of venomous snakes include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes.


Rattlesnakes [what to do if bitten by snake while hiking] have a triangular head and rattle warning sound. Bites cause extreme pain and tissue damage.


Copperheads range throughout the eastern and central US. Their bite causes intense pain, swelling, and tissue destruction.


Also called water moccasins, cottonmouths inhabit swamps and rivers. They have painful, tissue-damaging venom.

Coral Snakes

Coral snakes have striking red, yellow and black banding. Their neurotoxic venom quickly paralyzes nerves. Get antivenom fast!

Prevention of Snake Bites

Caution helps prevent surprise encounters with snakes when hiking.

Wear Protective Clothing and Gear

  • Close-toed hiking shoes/boots, long pants, and snake gaiters provide protection.
  • Leather gloves safeguard hands when climbing or moving wood.
  • Walk with a hiking stick to alert snakes of your approach.

Be Aware of Surroundings

Watch where you step, scan trails, avoid tall grass and brush, and give snakes space if seen. Stay vigilant near rock piles or downed trees.

Avoid Reaching into Hidden Areas

Always observe first before placing hands into rock crevices, log piles, deep grass, etc. where snakes hide.

what to do if bitten by snake while hiking

Remain calmPanicking causes faster circulation of venom. Move out of snake’s striking distance.
Call for helpHave someone call 911 while you or the victim stays still with the bite below heart level.
Wash biteGently clean with soap and water if possible. Do not cut or suction the wound.
ImmobilizeSplint bitten limb to prevent movement which circulates venom.
Remove jewelryTake off anything constricting swelling like rings, watches, boots.
Monitor signsWatch for symptoms of shock, like lowered BP and faintness.
TransportGet the victim to emergency care for antivenom treatment.
Identify snakeNote the snake’s size, shape, color, and rattle if possible. Share with medical staff.


What if I don’t know what snake bit me?

Seek medical care anyway, as venomous snake bites can appear deceptively minor at first. Share details to help identify the snake.

What if there are two fang marks?

Multiple marks indicate a venomous snake. Each mark should be treated as a separate bite.

What about home remedies like electric shock?

Do not attempt home cures. These delay lifesaving care, can harm tissue, and don’t neutralize venom.

How long does recovery take?

With antivenom treatment, most effects reverse within several hours. Wound healing can take a few days to several weeks depending on severity.


Snake bites on hiking trails can be alarming, but quick first aid response followed by emergency medical care result in positive outcomes for most victims.

Know how to identify venomous North American snakes, treat bites, and prevent surprise encounters. Planning, caution, and proper hiking gear reduce the risks of snake bites in the wilderness.

So remain vigilant, but don’t let snake bite anxiety prevent you from enjoying the trails! With proper preparation, first aid readiness, and emergency transport, hikers can continue exploring the outdoors safely.

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