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Thread: How did pioneers treat snake bites?

  1. #1
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    Default How did pioneers treat snake bites?

    Has anyone read anything about how early American settlers or Indians treated snake bites?

    Of course I'm asking about venomous bites.



    I've read all I can find on the issue but this question still remains unanswered. I imagine there might be some info in the Foxfire books but I can't afford them at this time.

  2. #2
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    They didn't have effective treatments for many things that are treatable today, hence the shorter life span. I don't have an answer but it probably involved alcohol, tobacco, and death in the end.

  3. #3
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    Usually by burial.

    The person will be very sick for several days but a healthy adult will usually (obviously not always) survive a bite from a venomous snake in North America except from the coral snake, the only native neurotoxic snake in the US. Most snake bites don't inject venom because venom is not a defensive mechanism but for food so unless you really piss one off, a bite will most likely be a dry strike.
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  4. #4
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    I'm thinking that they most likely:
    1. Removed their pants
    2. Placed their head between their knees
    3. Kiss their.............

    I've wondered how Benadryl might help, as we are 15 miles from pavement, and 45 miles from an ambulance, if they can find us, which frequently they don't.
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    The last movie I remember where the only people that had guns were Police and military is "Schindlers List".

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Montana View Post
    Usually by burial.

    The person will be very sick for several days but a healthy adult will usually (obviously not always) survive a bite from a venomous snake in North America except from the coral snake, the only native neurotoxic snake in the US. Most snake bites don't inject venom because venom is not a defensive mechanism but for food so unless you really piss one off, a bite will most likely be a dry strike.
    Because of the above, specifically most bites being dry, the biggest danger is from infection. Puncture wounds are pretty notorious for their potential for infection. Just about all you could do is clean the surface of the wound, apply neosporin, and if you have any, administer an appropriate antibiotic. If the wound does get infected, you may have to open it surgically to allow drainage and prevent septicemia.

    A venomous bite, (in addition to the above) you just have to hope you are strong enough to tough it out, and that while you are recuperating that someone else will be able to keep up on all the survival related duties because you probably aren't going to be worth spit for a week or two.

  6. #6
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    The cowboys in the old west did the "slash and suck" method for venimous snake bites like rattle snakes. Basically after you have removed/ dealt with the snake you cut the wound open more with your knife, then you or a friend starts sucking the blood/ toxin and spits it out. I do not think they were very worried about blood borne illness or getting all aidsy back then. There is questionable literature as to the effectiveness of this method or if it made things worse from the additional trauma.

    Your could do an improvised version without the slash(now thought to cause more trauma and spread venom further) by using a small syringe or suction device to try and draw out the venom near the wound however you would have very little time and would have to act quick to have any effect. If you can get some of the venom out it may be the difference between life and death. Avoiding snake bite is a better way around it with the right clothing and careful threading through bushes and rattlesnake country.

    There are suction devices sold in snake bite kits, being calm so your heart rate is low is key to prevent spread of venom. A trounquet above the bite about a foot can help keep the venom from spreading(which may be bad and cause it to do more damage in that area/I would only do this for the intial sucking phase). Try to force the blood back towards the wound and attept to suck it out after a few minutes you should give up. This is a last ditch and will possibly improve your odds. Stay calm, drink lots of water, and seek immediate medical attention if available. Keep your heart elevated above the wound at all times. Do not drink alchohol- this will speed blood flow to the heart. Do not use ice, this increases the odds of likely amputation. I am not a doctor, and all of the above is at your own risk and meant to help in a dire situation.
    Last edited by Ghost_buged_in; 04-04-2010 at 05:36 PM.
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  7. #7
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    Most of the pit vipers in the U.S. their venom is made up of large molecules. The venom doesn't go into the blood, the venom goes into the lymphatic system. This is the reason they tell you too put a turnakit on with out cutting off the flow of blood. NOTE: do not get bitten by a snake right after they have come out of hibernation due too the venom toxicity. The middle east stared the inoculation way back in the dark ages, long before European medicine. The Bedouins will milk a snakes venom and that of a scorpion. They will take the venom place in a pan with olive oil and heat it up, which denatures the poison. They will let the pan cool and take what is left and rub this concoction onto the small children trying to give them a basic type of immunity for the different venom. If given the option I would still take a anti venom from the horse at the hospital.

  8. #8
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    While looking on the net for pioneer/trapper/colonial clothing,I came across a story where Trappers carried a medicine bag in the spring and summer filled with a salt paste to apply over a snake bite.The salt was to draw liquid from the wound removing any poison or infection.
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  9. #9
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    I recall the first volume in the Foxfire series had a chapter on snakebite folk medicine. If memory serves, and it's been 10-15 years, they were largely suicidal remedies.
    "I never should have made it, but I'm still alive" "Dead End Streets", RevCo

  10. #10
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    This is purely anecdotal, but my father was bitten by a copperhead back in the late fifties and didn't go to the doctor. His leg swelled up to about twice it's normal size but he recovered completely in about six weeks. He was driving the tractor again in a week.

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