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Experts Say Tourniquets Should Not Be Used For Snake Bites


And now, a public service announcement about snake bites.


On Monday, for our Bill of the Month series, we aired a story about 10-year-old Oakley Yoder, who was bitten by a snake on a climbing trip. The story focused on the high price of the antivenom she got - more than $60,000 for four vials.

CORNISH: However, another aspect of the story caught the attention of many listeners. Here's how reporter Jake Harper explained what happened right after she got the bite.


JAKE HARPER, BYLINE: She told the counselors. And to keep the venom from spreading, they put a tourniquet around her ankle.

TONY DALY-CREWS: For a snake bite, don't use a tourniquet.

CORNISH: That's one of the listeners who wrote us about this, Tony Daly-Crews of Buckeye, Ariz. He knows what he's talking about. He's executive director of The Rattlesnake Conservancy.

CHANG: Now, a tourniquet is something like a belt or a rubber band that's tied around a limb tight enough to limit circulation.

CORNISH: It can be useful - like if you get a shark bite and are worried about the blood loss. In the case of a venomous snake bite...

DALY-CREWS: What can happen is you can isolate the venom to that limb. And what that can result in is oftentimes permanent disfigurement and things that can cause a lot of danger to you later on in life and have long-term consequences.

CHANG: A tourniquet can also make treatment at the hospital more complicated. Here's Dr. Sean Bush, an emergency physician in Greenville, N.C., who specializes in snake bites.

SEAN BUSH: I had a kid about the same age as this little girl. He was bitten by a copperhead here in North Carolina. His brother applied a tight tourniquet like a belt. And when he came in, his whole leg was blue. We had to be careful about how we loosened it up because if you loosen it too fast, you can get venom bolus into the bloodstream. So we had to gradually loosen it so that the antivenom would meet the venom in the blood. And so don't apply tourniquets for snake bites in the United States.

CORNISH: Both Sean Bush and Tony Daly-Crews say if you get a snake bite, stay calm and still. Remove jewelry because you're going to swell, and get to a hospital for antivenom as quickly as you can. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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