Most United States snakes are harmless. Poisonous snakes have fangs-specialized teeth through which a poison can be injected under the skin as with a hypodermic needle.
The bite is characteristically two needle-like puncture wounds side by side. The only four poisonous snakes in the United States are the rattlesnake, the cottonmouth moccasin, the copperhead. and the coral snake. First aid for their bites includes the following:
1. Immediately apply a tourniquet some inches above the wound at a level where the soft tissues can be compressed; tighten the tourniquet to a point where the veins swell up and the skin becomes flushed.
2. With a sharp razor blade or knife make an X-shaped incision over each of the fang marks. The cut can be up to one quarter of an inch deep. Avoid prominent skin vessels such as veins, or any tendons.
3. Suck out the venom, which will be mixed with blood. Spit it out from time to time but keep sucking as strongly as possible for at least an hour. If there are no open cuts in the mouth the venom is harmless, and it is equally harmless if swallowed.
4. Have the victim lie down and keep the suction going while he is being taken to a hospital or the doctor’s office.
5. A snakebite kit may well be kept in the car or with camping equipment if one is going into areas where poisonous snakes are known to exist.