Someone told me that you should treat a snake bite (in the wilderness) by cutting a X in the skin (with a knife) and sucking the stuff out of it. This sounds a little weird to me. Is this really a technique to go with in an emergency situation?
This is simply a compendium of relevant answers already given. Hopefully someone will come up with an original more detailed answer.
This is from an answer by WedaPashi in What are the first aid precautions to be taken in case of a snake bite?.
- Do not let anyone try to suck the venom out of the bite site. (I have heard cases of such a horrid thing done, and the one who sucked also got to be treated as the venom in victim's blood entered the sucker's blood through minute injuries in his gum/teeth).
- Cut and suck: You can introduce venom into yourself, the cutting can spread the venom further, and you risk damaging underlying muscle/organs.
I'll add 2 cents to it. Might appear a bit lengthy, but for me its essential.
I keep on telling people that they should never try to suck the venom out of a snake bite or why are venom extractors useless, it is not just for the safety of the one who is sucking, but also to educate why that is of absolutely no value. It has been a stupid myth among people, visualizing that the snake bites a person and the venom gets mixed in blood like you dip a color paint brush into the water bowl and water turns into a different color. This is not how it happens.
Most of the snake bits are Subcutaneous, sometimes Intramuscular (Think of the injections that you might have taken on your hips when you were kid) and very very rarely Intradermal (Just a scratch along the layers of the skin, similar to the one Austin Stevens had from a Snouted Cobra during his show) rather than being Intravenous (Injecting liquid substances directly into a vein), unless the snake fangs are so big and you are utterly unlucky.
Now how does it correlate to sucking venom out of a snake bite? Taking a deeper dive, you'd need to know how the venom gets into the victim's blood, what People usually call as Envenomation which means absorption of the venom into the bloodstream. The venom is absorbed firstly into Lymphatic System, which is a part of the Circulatory system. Again, Lymphatic system does not carry bloodstream, it carries Lymph. Lymph gets mixed with Blood at left or right Subclavian vein. But before that, the Lymph is passed through Lymph Nodes. Lymph nodes act like a filter for something that doesn't belong to the body, something which is foreign. But, these are not meant to deal with any kind of Toxins. So they get exhausted and that results in swollen or tender lymph nodes. Thats exactly why the ones who survive a snake bite sustain significant damage to Lymphatic system.
Ask anyone who has had a serious scorpion bite, or tell your doctor that you have been bitten by something you don't know about. The doctor might check your body for swelling around groin or armpits. Thats where the Lymph nodes are. Later the toxins reaching Kidneys do their damage.
The point is, does the venom directly gets transported through bloodstream, no, it doesn't! So sucking the wound, or making cuts around the bite to make the blood come out of the wound, or using a tourniquet to stop the blood flow are useless things to do. The aim should be to prevent lymphatic spread rather than restricting the blood supply altogether.
The reason behind roughly explaining how it takes place, is to clarify why we shouldn't do certain things.
Basically this is a bit of a myth, I think perpetuated by old cowboy films!
There's no way you could suck hard enough to remove the venom from out of your blood or lymphatic system. Most venoms are highly potent and only a very, very small amount is needed to cause damage. Most animals will produce a great deal more than is required to injure you so (for example a king cobra produces enough venom to kill 20 people in a single bite) removing enough simply isnt practical.
Not to mention (as in @imsodin's answer) the chances of injuring yourself in the process.
The only valid response to a snake bite is anti-venom and to get to it as fast as possible.