Before treating a black snake bite, identification is important to determine whether the serpent is venomous or non-venomous. Depending on the country or region, black snake can refer to at least several different species. Venomous types include the Pseudechis genus native to Australia and the cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus found in North America. Examples of non-venomous black snakes are the Natrix atra of Jamaica and the pipe snake of Thailand. If non-venomous, treating a black snake bite is important to prevent infection, while avoiding serious illness or death often requires emergency room care to receive the proper dose of antivenin, or antivenom, for venomous bites.
Hospitals will typically carry the antivenin for all of the types of venomous snakes in their area. A visit to a hospital emergency room is usually necessary so that the venomous black snake bite victim will be administered an adequate dosage of the antivenin for the best chance of recovery. Some species of venomous black snake, such as the red-bellied and blue-bellied varieties, may be treated with tiger snake antivenin. The antivenin is likely to be given by injection. While the victim is in the hospital, he or she will also be treated for any symptoms that may have resulted from the bite, such as low blood pressure or intense pain in some cases.
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Emergency medical help should always be sought immediately in any case of a bite from a venomous black snake. If possible, the hospital should be contacted before the victim arrives so that the antivenin can be ready. If the victim must wait for professional medical attention, he or she should be kept calm and treated with first aid techniques. Staying still and keeping the bitten limb lower than heart level, if possible, are often considered as important first aid methods to help prevent the venom from spreading further in the body.
The venomous black snake bite should be cleansed with soap and water if possible. Common treatments for venomous black snake bites often include wrapping an elastic cloth bandage around the bitten limb. A splint may be added to keep the arm or leg from being able to be bent.
First aid for venomous snake bites is no substitute for a hospital emergency visit and the correct antivenin. The main treatment goal should always be to get this professional emergency help as soon as possible. Professional medical treatment of a bite from a nonvenomous black snake may also be necessary in some cases. Depending on the species, a black snake bite may be painful or become infected if not properly treated.