There are a number of different snake bite kits available on the market today. These kits are relatively inexpensive and usually small, so they can easily be packed into camping or hiking gear. The main difference between snake bite kits is whether they include a suction device or a syringe to extract venom. Most of the other supplies are standard.
There are many different types of venomous snakes, and a bite from one of these snakes will not affect a person the same way as a bite from another species would. Most areas contain multiple species of venomous snakes, if they contain any, so snake bite kits are comprised of first aid supplies instead of species-specific treatments. The most effective treatment for a snake bite is anti-venom, which is specific to each species of snake and can only be administered by a health professional. While camping in backcountry or going on a long hike, however, it may be impossible to receive immediate medical attention, so snake bite kits can be brought along to provide first aid until proper medical treatment can be received.
Many snakebite kits come with some sort of suction device or pump. Though there is evidence that these are not particularly effective, especially in large muscle areas, a gentle suction device applied to a snake bite wound can help to extract venom without damaging the skin around the bite. Deep suction, however, can kill skin around the bite and worsen the effects of a snake bite. Researching the type of suction device included in a snake bite kit can help ensure that it will not cause more harm than good.
Older snakebite kits may come with a syringe, which can be used to draw blood or venom from an affected area. These are not as effective as pumps at extracting venom, and most modern kits do not contain this piece of equipment. Snake bite kits may also contain a blade, such as a scalpel, which is used to drain blood from the bite area. In common practice, cutting around a bite site can cause damage to the skin and many medical professionals are questioning the effectiveness of this technique.
All snake bite kits contain some sort of antiseptic wipe, which is useful to disinfect bites from both venomous and non-venomous snakes. A tourniquet or bandage is also usually included, which can be wrapped 2 to 4 inches (about 5 to 10 cm) above the bite. This may slow the spread of venom. It is important to wrap the area loosely, as cutting off blood flow can worsen damage to the tissue around the bite.
An ammonia inhalant, also known as smelling salt, is also included in most kits to safely help an unconscious victim come around. The shock of being bitten by a snake can cause a person to faint. It is important to keep the victim calm and awake in order to evaluate their condition.