What should hikers know about Snake Bites?

Although most snakes are not poisonous, even a bite from a nonpoisonous reptile can be dangerous, as it might cause an allergic reaction. Moreover, any snake bite, harmless or not, can cause an infection, so when you are hiking, it behooves you to be careful.

The most important thing to realize is that snakes do not want to bite you. Snakes eat small animals, like rodents, so what is a snake going to do with a human being?

Most snake bites occur when a person startles a snake that is quietly minding its own business, for example, when an imprudent hiker sees a snake and tries to kill it or get a closer look. Snakes may also attack if you step on them accidentally, so if you are in snake country, it's a good idea to avoid walking in thick brush and sticking your hands into places you can't see.

If you are with someone who hasn't read this book and does get bitten by a snake, the best thing to do is to wash the bite with soap and water, immobilize the part of their body that was bitten, and get medical help right away. Don't use a knife to cut the skin, and don't put ice on the bite.

Most important, don't try to be a hero and suck out the venom (although it is okay to practice this maneuver at home if you can find a willing companion).

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