First Aid for Zombie Bites
Informal studies (of zombie movies we’ve watched) show that the virus or infectious agent that causes zombification can be sensitive to sunlight—an example of this can be seen in the Will Smith movie I Am Legend. While this is not true in all cases, observe whether the zombies around you are more active at night. If so, the infectious agent may be sensitive to sunlight and you may be safer if you become nocturnal.
In addition, know if your type of zombie is a “shuffling” or a “rage” zombie. Shuffling zombies are easy to outrun; however, they tend to travel in very large herds, which makes them very dangerous. In World War Z, these slow-moving zombies are so desperate to get to the living that they form human pyramids to get over high walls that protect them.
Rage zombies, however, are fast-moving and sometimes have seemingly-supernatural strength. These can be even more dangerous than the shuffling variety. Avoidance is key, but there are a few things you can do if you or a loved one gets bitten.
First Aid for Zombie Bites: What to Do First
People bitten by a zombie—or those who have exchanged fluid with one—could turn quickly or within a few hours or days. At best, you have plenty of time to apply first aid. At worst, you only have a few minutes. The following measures should be taken immediately after a person has been bitten.
Wash and disinfect the bite
Most zombie infections are transmittable diseases—which means, theoretically, that they could be caused by bacteria. But how many times have you seen someone in a movie try to disinfect a zombie bite? It doesn’t happen very often—and it’s entirely possible a little Neosporin could have halted any number of fictional zombie apocalypses.
If someone is bitten, clean the wound thoroughly and disinfect with an antibiotic cream, rubbing alcohol, or a mixture of vinegar, salt, and water if no antibiotics are available. It’s possible this little step could save a lot of lives in a zombie situation.
Stop the bleeding
A person who has been bitten by a zombie is most likely bleeding. Stop the blood flow by applying pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. Elevate the limb above the heart.
Keep the infection from spreading
The infection that passes the zombifying disease is almost always fatal. However, if you catch it quickly enough, there is a possibility that you could halt or slow it down. Avoid trying to suck the poison out—this will invariably put you at risk for zombification as well. Instead, wrap a cloth or bandage tightly around the bitten limb, between the bite and the heart.
It’s possible that the constriction itself could slow the progress of the disease by stopping it from traveling along the bloodstream; however, amputation may be the only thing that stops it. In the absence of a qualified surgeon, a field tourniquet may be the only option. These can be easily constructed by wrapping a cloth around the wounded limb between the wound and the heart, inserting a stick or baton into the cloth, and then twisting it until blood constricts.
It only takes a few twists to constrict blood flow enough to kill the limb—and this measure should not be taken except in the most dire of circumstances, and never by non-medical professionals unless a zombification is imminent.
When It’s Clear You’re Safe
If you or a friend has been bitten by a zombie, survival is unlikely. These steps are only for situations where you are sure the infection has been stopped—and these situations are likely to be rare. If you were not the person bitten, your first priority should be to keep yourself and your other non-infected companions safe from a new zombie. If you were the bitten one, you should use your few lucid moments to isolate yourself from others you might infect. However, if it seems clear the infection has been stalled or stopped, here are a few other things you should do.
Treat for shock
If someone has been bitten by a zombie—and had a limb amputated to save them—chances are they are in considerable shock. Lay them down on their back, and elevate their legs above their head. Keep the victim warm; use towels, blankets, coats, or whatever else you have on hand. If they are vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn their head to keep the airway clear.
Treat broken bones
It’s entirely possible the attacking zombie could have broken the victim’s bones during the assault. If a bone is broken, immobilize the limb using padding or bandages; try to splint the limb only if you have been trained to do so, and never try to re-align or straighten a broken limb. Stop any bleeding and treat the person for shock.
If the Infection Hasn’t Been Stopped
This will likely be the case most of the time. If there is no chance of abating the infection, your first priority should be to get to safety. Regardless of whether the victim was once a friend, family member, or loved one, once the infection takes hold, they will no longer be the person you recognize—and they will try to eat your brains.
Zombified people must be treated like animals with rabies. Isolate the person in a place where they cannot break free—a jail cell, basement that locks from the outside, or the trunk of a car are good options. Bear in mind that once you lock a bitten person in an isolated area, however, they’ll be there indefinitely—eventually, you will have to put them down. You will have to do it quickly so it will not injure others. Zombies are notoriously difficult to kill; options include decapitation, a bullet wound to the head, or extreme full-body trauma resulting in a dramatic loss of fluids.
Zombification is a deadly disease—and almost no one survives being bitten. However, if you know a little more first aid than most people in zombie movies, your chances of survival may just go up. Remember that your first priority must be to keep yourself and other uninfected people safe—and hopefully you’ll be able to survive the zombie apocalypse.