Snakebites…ewww…those slithery things that make up nightmares (think Snakes on A Plane) but anyway, shiver. I live out in rattlesnake country (along with copperheads and water moccasins…joy) and on top of that, average response time to a 911 call for help can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minute, and that is under good circumstances. And a hospital? At least ½ hour away…paramedics don’t have anti-venom… So, being the person I am when I first moved out to the country I did my homework on how to handle a potentially unpleasant snake bite until I can get professional help. Copperhead bites are rarely fatal, but the timber rattlesnake and water moccasin snakes can cause all sorts of problems including anaphylactic shock. If you ever are bitten by a snake, seek help immediately!
Please note: I am not a ‘trained’ medical professional. All information I provide is for informational purposes only and not intended to treat nor diagnose. ALWAYS get professional help as soon as possible!
Short story time: Last year my dog Maggie, a Pitbull was barking furiously, I go out to investigate and what did I hear? That good ole’ rattle sound…that is a sound you will NEVER forget…thank goodness the snake was on one side of the wooden fence and she on the other. The year before that I was pleasantly surprised (sarcasm included and dripping) by a timber rattler sunning itself on the bottom step of my side porch…needless to say I used the backdoor instead.
Earlier this year my husband and I were out fishing early one morning…yep, guess what we almost stepped all over? And guess what I was wearing for shoes? Never mind, its embarrassing but what can I say? Wake me up at 5 am to go fishing and I probably ain’t smart enough yet But there was a nice copperhead hanging out in the vegetation. I went home that day and bought a good pair of snake boots…never leave home without them now. I have also had the pleasure of scaring a copperhead who was sunning itself near my wood pile, half under it… (I burn wood for the winter)…so I know what is in my yard!
Anyway, my point is that I live in snake country, they are here and I can only do so much to protect me and mine from them (and lest I forget, we have about 6 different types of other snakes who would leave a nasty bruise, one is a nice King Snake that likes to hang out across the garden path, huge thing! But he doesn’t even blink at us nor a dog for that matter we walk back and forth and around him all day long, I am thinking of naming him).
Prevention becomes your biggest friend in avoiding a snake bite.
If you live in snake country and do a lot of outdoor activities, get some snake boots, even for the kids. Barring that, there are other ways to ‘pad’ your lower leg and they do make some sort of snake protection that ties on to your leg.
Wear heavy leather work gloves when working outside. Something is better than nothing.
Pay attention to your surroundings, most especially what is UNDER your feet or where you are sticking your hand.
Don’t try to pick up a snake with your hands (my one daughter is infamous for picking up any and every living thing she finds outside…needless to say she no longer does it to snakes nor spiders after a bit of ‘home schooling’)
Try and keep brush piles gone from around your home and where your kids play.
VaCreepinOutdoors has written and excellent blog about keeping yourself safe from snakes in the great outdoors. You can find that here.
Snake venom acts as a hemotoxin, damaging blood vessels, or a neurotoxin, affecting the nervous system. Rattle snake, copperhead and water moccasin venom is considered hemotoxic; whereas the coral snakes’ venom is more neurotoxic. Nevertheless, snake venom can affect one or more body systems.
Bites from a rattle snake can causes immediate and extremely painful swelling at the site. This is very characteristic of this group. It can involve the destruction of blood vessels resulting in abnormal coagulation or blood flow. The tissue around the site becomes bruised in a few hours and can become necrotic with time, turning purplish-blue.
The symptoms of snake bites may vary from being mild to acute. Symptoms of snake bites are conditional on the species of snake, the amount of venom injected as well as the age of the victim, normally all such victims are likely to experience the following conditions after a snake bite:
Blood loss from the wound or bruise caused by snake bite
Burning sensation of the skin around the affected area
Cloudy or confusing vision
Seizures or spasm
Diarrhea or dysentery
Lightheadedness or dizziness
Too much perspiration
Marks of snakes fangs on the skin
Rise in body temperature or fever
Enhanced thirst or feeling thirsty despite intake of sufficient fluids
Lack of muscle coordination
Queasiness and vomiting
Fast pulse rate
Debility or general feeling of weakness
Lack of sensation (numbness) and tingling
Death of tissues in the affected area
Swelling at the place of the snake bite
Systemic poisoning includes excessive salivation, vomiting which can lead to hypotension and shock. These symptoms can happen very quickly and if severe, can lead to death on average at about 48 hours. Get help!
It is very important to remember that in children symptoms can become life threatening very quickly. Please make sure you know CPR!
It is very important for anyone who lives in ‘snake’ country or who camps/hikes/fishes in snake country to know the basics of first aid ‘just in case’ a bite happens. Knowing what to do BEFORE you can get to professional help (which could be hours away) may save your life or someone else’s:
First things first…get a plan, have a plan and be prepared it helps with the first ‘do’:
Stay CALM! It is important that the bite victim remains as calm as possible. If you are bit getting anxious and upset will send your heart rate up which increases circulation. Not to mention how adrenaline works on the body which may cause you or them to do something no so smart. Aconite 30c works best at this point.
Limit the movement of the person who has been bit as much as possible. Again, this is to slow down the venom movement in the blood stream.
DO NOT raise the bite wound above the heart, keep it as low as possible from the heart even if its squirting blood out (this is actually a good thing as venom will come out with the blood)
The wound should be treated like all other wounds. A Sawyer Extractor® for venom extraction is a proven method for reducing the venom from entering the system. This is actually the ONLY approved device approved for extracting venom of all types including bees, wasps and snakes.
Get rid of all rings or other items that may cause constriction since the area around the snake bite will swell.
Remember, the area of the snake bite will gradually swell and become discolored if the snake that bit the victim is venomous.
If you can, keep an eye on the vital signs of the victim, including pulse rate, pace of breathing, body temperature and blood pressure.
If you begin to see signs of shock in the bite victim, have them lay down.
Seek immediate medical help. It is important not to waste any moment after a person has been bitten by a snake.
What NOT TO DO:
Never apply a tourniquet or strap near the area where the snake has sunk its teeth.
Don’t make the victim become over-exerted. Carry the victim to a safer place, if it is deemed necessary.
Avoid applying any type of cold compresses to the affected area.
Don’t incise the area of the snake bite with a razor, knife or any other sharp object.
Never try to suck the snake venom out of the victim’s body with your mouth.
Don’t give anything to the snake bite victim to eat or drink.
Don’t elevate the affected area above the level of the person’s heart for it may increase the flow of venom to the heart.
Don’t give the victim any medication, either painkillers or stimulants, these could mask serious symptoms that a doctor/trained professional will need to see in order to asses the bite victim.
So now what? What can you do YOURSELF while you wait for help or are trying to get to help? There are a few that can be used to help you, your furry friend or two legged friend until you can get professional help:
Get and USE A Sawyer Extractor® for venom extraction, follow direction on the package.
Wash and clean the wound as best as possible and keep it as clean as possible. Personally I keep Tea Tree Essential Oil on hand to use after traditional cleansing. Use Tea Tree Essential Oil on and around the wound (about 6 inches diameter). I also keep helichrysum essential oil on hand for wounds.
If you have it handy, use Bromelain (which is a dietary supplement easily found at many stores with a good selections of vitamins) 1000mg as soon as possible after the bite. If need be use 1000mg per hour until you can get help. The snake venom molecule (and most snake and insect bite venoms) are composed of three-dimensional, nearly 100% pure, protein. The strongest known natural solvents for protein molecules are bromelain and papain. Bromelain can be used after you have been released from the hospital too…500mg 8 times a day.
Goldenseal capsules or tincture. 1 tsp immediately after bite and then 20 drops (or 500mg if using powder) 6 times a day. Until you can get help or after returning home.
Echinacea. This famous natural herb stimulates the immune system. It is mentioned as a snake bite remedy in many older herb books. 1000 mg immediately if using powder or 1 tsp of tincture. Take every 20-30 minutes until you reach help (or until you see swelling and bruising subsiding) after that…8 times a day for 10 days (past 10 days Echinacea is no longer effective).
Yellow dock can be used to alleviate symptoms until you can get professional help. Drink a cup of yellow dock tea or take 2 capsules of yellow dock every hour until the symptoms are gone.
Soak and wash wound in activated charcoal until you can get help or until signs are gone. There have been some people who have taken activated charcoal by mouth as directed on the bottle to help also. Activated Charcoal should also be taken by mouth, in the quantity of approx. 2 Tbsp. every 2 hours, for 3 doses, and 1 tsp. every hour for 24 hours. Each dose should be followed by 2 glasses of water.
Black Cohosh (aka Snake Root) applied as a salve or paste to the wound until you can reach help. May also be used as a tincture to help with pain (especially ‘cramping’ like pains).
Now to my favorites because they are easy to take with you into the woods, cheap and last a long time!
If you choose to use homeopathics give every 10 minutes and then back off as symptoms subside. 5 pellets every 10 minutes, then every 20, then every 30 minutes, etc. until you can get professional help. With homeopathy, you are looking at signs and symptoms someone is displaying or MIGHT and then giving the appropriate remedy. If after 3 doses of a given remedy you do not see improvement, then choose another one.
Aconite is beneficial in any situation that causes emotional trauma or hysteria. This remedy is also beneficial for any responder that is in a panicked. THIS IS THE FIRST REMEDY TO GIVE. I carry this with me everywhere!
Apis is useful in reducing an allergic reaction from the insect poisoning and snake venom. It may be used to help reduce the likelihood of anaphylaxis shock or used if the animal is having difficulty breathing.
Arnica is used first for any trauma. It will help minimize the symptoms of shock and the soft tissue damage from the bite.
Crotalus hordius, a homeopath remedy derived from the rattlesnake venom, has shown benefits with doses at 15 minute intervals. Poor circulation and hemorrhaging may be occurring at the bite site.
Hypericum could be used when the bite results in extreme pain especially nerve related pain. Rattle snake bites are known to be very painful and Hypericum just might help.
Lachesis, derived from the Bushmaster snake, is used for bite wounds that turn purplish-blue. There venom results in poor circulation with dark blood that does not coagulate easily. It may help prevent septic (shock) complications.
Ledum is best known for any puncture wounds. It should be given first, after Arnica, for any punctures that might cause infection or pain. The wound area may twitch and feel cold but not always. There may be great swelling and inflammation.
There are a number of other homeopathic remedies to help combat the affects of a poisonous snake bite that should be considered. Belladonna would be useful if the animal or person is restless or delirious with dilated pupils. A sudden, high fever may occur due to the toxins in the system.
Cedron is another rattlesnake remedy.
For any snake bite I would give one dose of Aconite to help them calm down (heck, I would take a dose myself!) Then if I had it on hand while waiting for help or getting to help I would give one dose of arnica, then every 15 minutes rotating, hypericum, then cedron then ledum. Personally I always carry Crotalus hordius…use every 15 minutes until you reach help. And ONE dose of Lachesis 1M.
I understand this seems like a lot to carry with you but I promise, its not! The tubes are very small and light weight and can be used for many other health challenges, not just snake bites!
According to Dr.Eileen Nauman, DHM, DHom(UK) in her book ‘Poisons that Heal’ pg. 83
On the way to the emergency room:
If the skin around the bite becomes purple-red or purplish looking; seepage of dark blood, Lachesis 30c every 5 minutes
Rapid swelling and and bleeding under the skin around the bite, discolored flesh, and the person is extremely sensitive to be jarred or moved: Crolatus Horridus 30c every 5 minutes
Shallow breathing, band around the head sensation, face congested looking with a pale nose and mouth, vomiting, weak pulse (systemic poisoning)Carbolic Acid 6c
She also recommends for ANYONE who is outside a lot or hikes/camps a lot to keep Lachesis 1M in their first aid kit just in case of snakebite. Take one dose every 10 minutes until you reach help.
Being prepared in an emergency could save your life. As someone who lives in area with 3 types of poisonous snakes, spends quite a bit of time outdoors and is far away from help, I like to have a back up plan and this is it until I can reach help.
Hope this helps you prepare! Be safe and be aware that is always your first line of defense…but just in case…
We have all heard that tick bites can ‘give’ you Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other not so nice pathogens that can cause a range of physical symptoms that are generally unpleasant. In fact, there is are ‘new’ emerging illnesses called Babesiosis and another one called STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash) that are becoming more and more prevalent. The first one is primarily seen in the Northeast corridor and spreading into the Mid-West (like Lyme Disease) and STARI is spreading in the Southern regions. And as in many cases preventing tick bites is your best bet against the diseases that they carry (some of which are very hard to diagnosis and often mimic other types of infections since their symptoms can be very vague). You may scroll down to the very bottom of this blog to see the diseases that ticks carry.
Keep grass cut low and free from brush/leaf litter
Keep bushes, trees and grass away from the house or your sitting area
Discourage deer and choosing planting that are deer resistant
Use some sort of chemical control…now, I do not advocate using chemicals, but that is my choice. There several good organic pesticides on the market that do not harm people or animals, you can also use drying agents such as Diatomaceo Earth on yards, trees and shrubs. There are a lot of choices out there so check around.
If out in the woods, wear light colored clothing, long sleeves and pants. Keep your shirt tucked in and preferably keep your pant legs tucked into your socks also. Alternately you may use a rubber band around the ankle on the outside of your pants.
Use a repellant… there are several types of repellents available, most containing DEET.
Again, I do not like to use chemicals as they tend to build up in your body and can cause immune and neurological system distress. There are some alternatives that work:
Use rubbing alcohol on your bare skin…rub it generously all over your bare skin and let dry completely before heading out. Ticks and other nasty insects do not like it (including mosquitoes) Reapply if you get sweaty for a period of time.
Use mentho (Vicks) vapor rub on your pant legs…again, they don’t like this.
Use one of the following essential oil repellants (may use on animals too except for cats!):
Spray bottle with ¼ c water
20 drops Eucalyptus oil
15 drops Tea tree oil
15 drops of peppermint oil
½ cup water
40 drops rose geranium oil
15 cedarwood oil
A good all around insect repellant that can also be used in the yard, on counter-tops and animals:
2 pts lemon eucalyptus
1 pt cedarwood
1 pt clove
2 pts citronella
1 pt lemongrass
3 pts rosemary
3 pts peppermint
You may use this by the drop (1 drop equals 1 part) or teaspoon or tablespoon…depending on how much you want to make…it is good for skin, clothing, fur, general purpose insect repellant.
Typically I will make a large batch of this and use 10ml (2 tablespoons about) to 8 ounces of water in a sprayer. Make sure to shake and then spray.
Alternately I also make a 10% dilution with patichouli oil in a homemade soap for bathing and using in the shower. While this isn’t as effective as using a repellant, I have found that the ticks will crawl on me but not bite too often.
You may also use a good Neem oil shampoo/body wash (dogs, people, etc. NO CATS!)
Plants that are used to repel ticks and other noxious insects:
With prevention addressed we now turn to what to do after being outside (even on the golf course!)
Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body
Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you. And use a soft scrub brush or body poof to remove the next to impossible to see deer tick that you may not see.
Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and shoes and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
Next, what to do if you find a tick:
How to remove a tick
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
Time is of the essence in removing the tick to prevent a tick-borne disease! It takes a tick at LEAST 36 hours of being attached BEFORE it can pass along any pathogens in its gut/mouth! Always check yourself and remove immediately. There is ‘folklore’ about applying fingernail polish and petroleum jelly, etc. in order to suffocate the tick making it back out on its own. The only thing that I have seen work within seconds is dabbing the tick with Wintergreen essential oil…ticks hate this oil and it is toxic to them! However, those who use products such as Ben Gay or are on an aspirin regimen should avoid wintergreen oil…sometimes the old fashion way is best…grab and remove!
Prevent Infection from Tick-borne Pathogens Yourself!
I highly recommend a proactive approach if you live in an area prone to ticks such as rural areas or if you work, hunt, play in the great outdoors…eat your garlic…garlic is a well-known ‘natural’ anti-viral/antibiotic that also helps to boost your immune system. Get plenty of the B vitamins…creepy crawlies and flying creepies do not like the smell of the B vitamins and won’t hang around to eat you.
If you ARE bitten, use an herbalbiotic for 7 days to help prevent problems (see article on herbalbiotics). Preferably use Usnea or Goldenseal along with Echinacea.
Also, for the next 7 days use Burdock root to help cleanse the blood, either tincture, pill or infusion (strong tea). Follow instructions provided on the labeling of what you purchase.
Alternately you may also use the homeopathic nosode for Ticks, especially recommended if you live in a high risk area where cases are being reported – The Tick Nosode may be bought from here Tick Nosode
How to use this nosode: 10 drops per day before a meal and after at least 20 minutes of something being in the mouth.
To help antidote the bite, take the homeopathic Ledum 30C 3-5 pellets 3 times a day for 1 day and then begin the Tick Nosode. Do NOT take both at the sametime. Take the Ledum first and then follow up with the nosode.
A blend known as 4 Thieves Essential Oil applied to the bite site several times a day for 3 days may help prevent tick-borne diseases.
There are specific essential oil blends to use if you know what type of tick bit you, contact a professional clinical aromatherapist for this information.
Be sure to watch for secondary infections from a tick bite. As with any type of wound that breaks the skin a secondary infection may occur. Use appropriate caution to ensure the bite area heals correctly. Again, I highly recommend using 4 Thieves essential oil or a similar antibiotic essential oil blend or another topical antibiotic…even honey! But the 4 Theives oil blend seems to help heal it up fast and stop the itching associated with the poison the tick injects to numb the area (to which many people are allergic and often causes the redness and itching long after the tick is gone).
With this said, your best defense to preventing an acquired tick-born pathogen is using some sort of repellant and removing them promptly. Remember, the tick must be attached at LEAST 36 hrs before it can begin to transmit an infection. Catch them as soon as possible and take some simple preventative measures to boost your immune system or a prophylactic herbalbiotic and you should be just fine!
To what ticks may be in your area please visit the following CDC page:
A list of tick borne diseases:
Tickborne Diseases of theU.S.
(You may follow the links for more information on the disease itself)
Anaplasmosis is transmitted to humans by tick bites primarily from the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeastern and upper midwesternU.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
Babesiosis is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and is found primarily in the easternU.S.
Ehrlichiosis is transmitted to humans by the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), found primarily in the southcentral and easternU.S.
Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) in the northeasternU.S. and upper Midwestern U.S. and the western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) along the Pacific coast.
Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis is transmitted to humans by theGulfCoast tick (Amblyomma maculatum).
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is transmitted by the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis),RockyMountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sangunineus) in theU.S. The brown dog tick and other tick species are associated with RMSF in Central andSouth America.
STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) is transmitted via bites from the lone star tick (Ambylomma americanum), found in the southeastern and easternU.S.
Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected soft ticks. TBRF has been reported in 15 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming and is associated with sleeping in rustic cabins and vacation homes.
Tularemia is transmitted to humans by the dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), the wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum). Tularemia occurs throughout theU.S.
364D Rickettsiosis (Rickettsia phillipi, proposed) is transmitted to humans by thePacificCoast tick (Dermacentor occidentalis ticks). This is a new disease that has been found inCalifornia.
Symptoms of Tickborne Illness
Many tickborne diseases can have similar signs and symptoms. If you have been bitten by a tick and develop the symptoms below within a few weeks, a health care provider should evaluate the following before deciding on a course of treatment:
- Your symptoms
- The geographic region in which you were bitten
- Diagnostic tests, if indicated by the symptoms and the region where you were bitten
The most common symptoms of tick-related illnesses are: (one very good reason to be PROACTIVE with herbs, essential oils or homeopathy)
- Fever/chills: With all tickborne diseases, patients can experience fever at varying degrees and time of onset.
- Aches and pains: Tickborne disease symptoms include headache, fatigue, and muscle aches. With Lyme disease you may also experience joint pain. The severity and time of onset of these symptoms can depend on the disease and the patient’s personal tolerance level.
- Rash: Lyme disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia can result in distinctive rashes:
- In Lyme disease, the rash may appear within 3-30 days, typically before the onset of fever. The Lyme disease rash is the first sign of infection and is usually a circular rash called erythema migrans or EM. This rash occurs in approximately 70-80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite. It may be warm, but is not usually painful. Some patients develop additional EM lesions in other areas of the body several days later.
- The rash of (STARI) is nearly identical to that of Lyme disease, with a red, expanding “bulls eye” lesion that develops around the site of a lone star tick bite. Unlike Lyme disease, STARI has not been linked to any arthritic or neurologic symptoms.
- The rash seen with Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) varies greatly from person to person in appearance, location, and time of onset. About 10% of people with RMSF never develop a rash. Most often, the rash begins 2-5 days after the onset of fever as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots (macules) on the wrists, forearms, and ankles and spreads to the trunk. It sometimes involves the palms and soles. The red to purple, spotted (petechial) rash of RMSF is usually not seen until the sixth day or later after onset of symptoms and occurs in 35-60% of patients with the infection.
- In the most common form of tularemia, a skin ulcer appears at the site where the organism entered the body. The ulcer is accompanied by swelling of regional lymph glands, usually in the armpit or groin.
- In about 30% of patients (and up to 60% of children), ehrlichiosis can cause a rash. The appearance of the rash ranges from macular to maculopapular to petechial, and may appear after the onset of fever.
Tickborne diseases can result in mild symptoms treatable at home to severe infections requiring hospitalization. Although easily treated with antibiotics, these diseases can be difficult for physicians to diagnose. However, early recognition and treatment of the infection decreases the risk of serious complications. So see your doctor immediately if you have been bitten by a tick and experience any of the symptoms described here.
Remember, you can prevent becoming sick if you ARE bitten so be proactive and use what you have from the natural world and you should be fine.