(Article originally published on Ready Man)

No matter how well prepared you are, or how alert you are, sometimes nature strikes. If you don’t know how to appropriately respond, the strike could be deadly – especially if the strike came from a venomous snake. Hopefully you are not alone if it happens, but even if you are there are a few precautions and considerations you should be aware of.

Is it a viper? Hopefully your awareness of what kind of snakes are in your operating environment and your ability to identify them can answer this. Vipers will typically have fangs that are significantly larger than other snakes, which will mean that their penetration will be deeper. Look to see if the strike penetrated, or if there is just a slight scratch that may denote a non-penetrating blow. If it did puncture the skin, the venom (which almost all vipers have) may cause visible damage to the skin, pain, neurologic symptoms, paralysis, or even death. If you are lucky, it may be just a “dry blow” which means the bite was purely defensive and the viper may not have injected any venom.

If a venomous snake struck you, was it an intravenous strike? If this happens, time is definitely of the essence. Apply a tourniquet above the bite site immediately, and evacuate to the nearest emergency room or poison control center for administration of antivenin. Many materials that you will find on the treatment of snakebites will say not to use tourniquets because it constricts blood flow and may result in amputation. I have two thoughts on this: Nearly fifteen years of war has shown us that tourniquets are very effective and do not result in amputations; and either way, if the choice is between living with an amputated leg or dying – I know what I’m picking!

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