Snake Bites: Lessons from the Emergency Room

Snake Bites: Lessons from the Emergency Room

Snake Bites - Rattle Snake

By Dr. Christopher Lawrence Huerta, MD.

Over the past 35 years I’ve treated a lot of patients with snake bite wounds. There are certain precautions everybody needs to know to prevent and to treat snake bite wounds.

Working in the oil fields of West Texas you need to be aware of the risk of rattlesnakes.


Despite the name, the Western Diamondback is mainly found in the eastern part of Texas and is the most common and widespread venomous snake in Texas.

The Mottled Rock, Banded Rock, Blacktail, Mojave, Desert Massasauga and Praire rattlesnakes are the most likely to found in the oil fields of West Texas and Eastern New Mexico.

All of these snakes are crotalidae (pit vipers). The pits are heat sensors.

How to Prevent Snake Bites

  • You must have a good set of boots and work pants that cover everything up to your waist.
  • No exposed skin.
  • Keep your distance from all snakes.
  • Never poke or taunt a snake.
  • Lift your hands up above your head and walk away from the snake if you see one.

What to do After a Snake Bite

Call for Help
If you are bitten by a snake, my best advice is back out of range and grab your phone. I want you to photograph the snake, area of your body where you were bitten and then use that phone to call for help. If you have a pen or marking device then circle the area and take another photo.

The reason to immediately call for help is because you may pass out within 30 minutes and envenomation by a pit viper causes tremendous pain, making it very difficult to drive yourself.

Do not apply a tourniquet
This will make tissue necrosis worse. Remove rings or anything that is constricting. Drink fluids, lie flat and elevate the area of the bite above the level of your heart.

Visiting Hospital ER After Snake Bite

Most of the smaller hospital emergency departments do not have enough anti-venom.

When your “help” arrives then have them call the emergency department of closest large city. Ask if they have at least 10 vials of CroFab. If not, then call the next hospital on your list.

The hospital with the most CroFab is where you need to drive to if swelling and pain are developing.

See also: Help! My Child Was Bitten by a Snake!

If you have no swelling and no pain, then you most likely had a “dry bite” or the snake that was not venomous. You are best to still get the wound evaluated at Signature Care Emergency Center to update your tetanus and be evaluated for antibiotic treatment.

The reason to take a picture of the snake is to determine if it was non-venomous or a Copperhead snake that may not require anti-venom.

The reason to photograph the bite wound is because your phone will “time-stamp” the pictures and we can measure the distant that swelling has developed to see if you need CroFab.

schedule an appointment

Dr. Christopher Lawrence Huerta, MD, is a board-certified emergency physician. He has over 35 years’ experience including holding multiple positions as EMS Director. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Arizona State University before completing his Doctor of Medicine (honors) from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa Society. For relaxation Dr. Huerta likes to study ECGs, ultrasounds, radiography, read books on various subjects and spend time with his family.

By | August 22nd, 2019|Categories: Health & Wellness|