can you help counter snake venom with a tourniquet..? 🐍


If someone got bit by a snake or other deadly venomous creature on their hand of foot would isolating the poison in that limb by applying a tourniquet be a good/potentially life saving thing to do..?

Logic being the infected blood cannot reach the vital organs/systems granting time to get treatment or anti venom.

If not then why.. ?

In: 19

It’ll keep the venom from spreading, but kill cells where you were bitten, in addition to causing significant nerve damage to the area from the tourniquet. Most snake bites aren’t deadly and you *want* the venom to spread and dilute. It’ll suck but you will survive.

I mean if it’s a deadly snake and you’re super quick with the tourniquet it’s better than dying. But in 99.99% of cases it’s a stupid idea.

In Australia, snake bites are treated using a compression bandage wrapped the length of the bitten limb. Not tight enough to cut off blood flow like a tourniquet but to reduce blood flow and reduce flow in the lymphatic system and partially immobilize the limb. People bitten are also advised to lay down and be as still as possible. The reasoning being that your body can process and elminate the toxin but in small amounts. Keeping the limb compressed and immobile will keep most of the venom locally around the bite but allow small amounts into the rest of the body to be processed and eliminated until you can (hopefully) get medical help.

There are anecdotal stories of people getting bitten and not having access to medical treatment (such as Aboringal people pre-colonization) so they just lay down and were completely still for about 3 days before getting up and carrying on with no ill effects. But many snakebites are “dry” with no envenomation so it’s unsure if that tactic actually worked or if it only seemed to work because it was a dry bite.


First reason is that in most snake attacks the adrenaline rush of seeing the snake as well as the pain of a bite will increase heart rate and this will increase the speed that the venom starts circulating in the bloodstream ; this happens in seconds.

The second reason is that unless you have someone nearby to help you, its not that easy making a tourniquet on the upper limbs by yourself, and a lot of snake attacks are done on the upper limb due to instinctively protecting your head and torso with it.

The third reason is that a tourniquet on lower limb greatly reduces your mobility. Think on the times you took too long in the toilet seat, tried to get up and noticed that your legs were tingling and it was hard to keep yourself upright as well as pain. If you are applying a tourniquet on your leg strong enough to impair blood flow, you are subject to losing the mobility as well. How can you get medical care if you can’t even leave the area?

The fourth reason is that a venomous snake bite is likely to have proteolytic enzimes. Even if you somehow block the venous return temporarily to avoid venom on the bloodstream, there will be a lot of muscle tissue damage. When removing the tourniquet, this broken muscle tissue circulating into the bloodstream will block the nephrons, leading into a acute kidney injury, which is one of the biggest reasons of late death post snake bite.

The idea of a tourniquet as a counter to snake bite is a very old one, but most data collected about venomous snake bites show that tourniquets are useless or deleterious in preventing deaths and amputations.

Just don’t do it. Don’t waste time in trying to do a tourniquet when your number one priority is reaching a facility with emergency care ASAP and get antivenom plasma ASAP.

I learned first aid decades ago, so things might have changed since then. (I’m a bad person. I should get updated.) The common wisdom about tourniquets back then was “lose a limb, save a life.” The meaning was that if you use a tourniquet, there’s a good chance the limb will have to be amputated due to blood flow being cut off so long. If the victim is sure to die without a tourniquet, go ahead and do it, but be aware that amputation is a possibility.

If you are a medical professional, there are times a tourniquet can save a life. If you are a layman, a tourniquet will often do more harm than good.

Later, after a quick Google search…

A MedlinePlus article about snake bites says, “DO NOT apply a tourniquet.”

The newest toxicological guidelines indicate that tourniquets generate way more morbility than doing nothing.

The first thing that should be done is trying to take a picture of the snake from a safe distance, this is to be able to identify which type of snake it was and also which antivenom to use, if that is not possible at least trying to remember a few characteristics of it. Never try to catch it or kill it.

Then the patient has to call the EMS as soon as possible, keep the wound as clean as possible, apply first aid and mark where the bite was and an approximate time in which they were bitten. The idea being to go as soon as possible to the closest hospital to be treated (preferably not driving by themselves).

Things that should NOT be done under any circumstances:

-Trying to suck out the venom (It gets injected into the depth of your dermis and muscles directly, getting absorbed by capillaries in seconds, the only thing you’re doing is increasing the odds of infection)

-Slashing your skin and deep tissues to “drain the venom”. You’re only causing more damage to nerves, muscle and vascular structures.

-Using a tourniquet: It decreases blood flow distally to the tourniquet and causes unnecessary cell death.