Suck Out the Poison
Media would have us believe you can put your mouth over the entry point for certain poisons and suck it out as though through a straw. Not realistic at all as it's usually described, but it apparently makes for good dramatic or comedic scenes.
Do NOT actually try this. Some educational videos warn explicitly not to do this, since:
- All the bacteria in your mouth could cause an infection in the wounded.
- Putting poison in your mouth is a Very Bad Thing™, and even if you're able to suck it out, you're just transferring the risk from the victim to yourself. While many venoms indeed can't get through an unbroken mucous membrane (but then, spitting cobras rely on exactly this), how can you be sure there are no scratches or erosion?
- If the bite injected in a blood vessel, the circulation carried most of the poison away from the entry point before you start, and of course veins have non-return valves.
- If it's in soft tissue, sucking on a thin puncture will only make the area swell (which is likely to accelerate transfer of venom into bloodstream), while the poison mostly remains in the deep end of a puncture and/or already have spread around (as trying it on a mosquito bite or wasp sting can demonstrate).
So it requires making an incision at the site of the wound, which has all the problems of improvised field surgery — increases bleeding (raising everyone's risk of infection) and may result in the poison entering the bloodstream faster. Of course, using an external device can help with A and B, but their effectiveness is disputed.
Note that Poisoned Weapons (unless syringe-like) are different: instead of injecting liquid venom through a small puncture, a larger wound is contaminated with poison that's likely be very viscous or partly dried. When the poison is smeared over an already open wound and gradually dissolving into bloodstream, sucking it out can significantly reduce the amount that makes it in. And disturbing such a wound is likely to wash out with blood at least some of the poison, rather than just get it dissolved faster.
Note that this trope, like most snake-bite "cures", became popular because it seems to work. This is helped by the fact that people survive the vast majority of venomous snake bites even without treatment, and a large proportion of snakebites are 'dry', meaning the snake releases no venom. So, someone gets bitten, someone else "sucks out the venom", and the person gets better (simply because most people do), and both parties become convinced that sucking out the venom works!
In reality, the currently advised First Aid for snakebites is to keep the victim calm, prevent them from moving, and arrange for them to be transported to the hospital. In Australia, pressure immobilisation bandages are also recommended.
- Rowan Atkinson did a series of Barclaycard adverts in the 1990s where he played an incompetent spy (later used as the basis for his Johnny English character) whose assistant would call Barclaycard to get them out of sticky situations. In one ad, they are stranded in the jungle with a comrade who has been bitten by a snake. The assistant wants to call Barclaycard's international rescue service, but Atkinson ridicules this idea and suggests they suck out the poison - until he discovers the wound is in a rather sensitive place and agrees to call for help.
Anime and Manga
- Bastard!! has Dark Schneider take a blow from a poisoned sword while protecting a love-interest, and then tells her she'll have to suck out the poison.
- Change 123: The location of the bite makes this covered by Rule of Funny
- It is used in a story arc in Detective Conan, and resident Teen Genius Conan used tea to take use of its astringent qualities.
- The vampire-like Arystar Krory from D.Gray-man can remove Akuma poison from another person by drinking their blood.
- Done in the Fushigi Yuugi OAV, when Miaka sucks poison out of Tasuki's wound. She takes this one step further, in that she attempts to cure Tamahome of a monster possession by sucking the monster out of the bite wound used to make it enter his body.
- Gon tries this in an early Hunter X Hunter chapter. It doesn't work.
- In a somewhat early episode of Inuyasha, Myoga the flea did this to Human!Inuyasha when he was poisoned by a youkai. Myoga grew to almost the size of Shippo and passed out. Although Inuyasha didn't need to fully recover. He just needed to last out the night until he regained his Healing Factor.
- Later, Myoga did the same thing to the entire main cast (except Inuyasha, who didn't need it).
- Averted in the Zabuza Arc of Naruto. When Naruto takes a poisoned weapon to the back of the hand, Kakashi instructs him to open the wound and let out the poisoned blood from his system. This was pretty hardcore, until he is then reminded to stop the bleeding before he bleeds to death. Admittedly, using a kunai of all things to slice open your bloodstream carries a very significant risk of causing the wound to become septic. But they're ninjas, and he has a Healing Factor.
- Subverted in Rurouni Kenshin. Yahiko was once poisoned, and when Kaoru was about to try this, Megumi (who is a doctor/pharmacist) said that would just complicate the injury, and makes an actual antidote.
- A bonus Slayers Yonkoma strip parodies this: after Lina is bitten by a poisonous snake, Gourry volunteers to suck out the poison, much to her embarrassment. He swallows. He spends the next week bedridden.
- Some kind of essence of evil poison in the episode of Wedding Peach where Limone reveals his past with Yuri.
- Ninja Scroll: Jubei attempts this after Kagero was bitten by a poison snake. But she quickly stops him by kneeing him and explains she has her own toxin in her body that'll negate the poison...and would've killed Jubei if he had actually managed to start sucking.
- San's introduction in Princess Mononoke shows her attempting this on Moro. It doesn't work because the iron bullet poisoning Moro is never removed.
- Kyu does this to Megu in Tantei Gakuen Q when they're trapped in a sealed room and a Meiousei member releases a snake that bites her on the leg.
- Note that even with that treatment done, Megu still needs to get an injection of the appropriate antivenom and treatment in the hospital before she fully recovers.
- Eiken has this in one chapter with Densuke and the resident Ill Girl going on a date in the woods and her getting bitten by a snake. Because it is unclear to them if the snake is venomous or not, she insists that he suck out the potential venom, which he is reluctant to do, since it bit her in the butt.
- Played for laughs in God of Cookery. Stephen Chow wakes up to find a Shaolin monk about to perform the procedure on him. The monk informs him that he's sucked every part of his body dry of poison, except one.
- Played with in Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Everybody has fallen down a cave shaft into the dark. People start to sound off that they're not dead. Cookie the Chef says that something bit him and someone's gonna have to suck the venom out. By the groans we get the feeling that nobody's exactly jumping into a line. Given that Cookie's a curmudgeonly old man who serves inedible slop three times a day, and that his exact words were, "Dang lightnin' bugs done bit me on my sit-upon. Somebody's gonna have to suck out this poison."...
- One of the few funny scenes in Caddyshack II
- Part of a very old dirty joke, played out in the film Can I Do It Till I Need Glasses: The Lone Ranger and Tonto were riding along, the Lone Ranger had to take a leak, and a snake bit him on his, uh, "wee-wee". Tonto ran miles and miles to the nearest doctor, who told him "You have to suck the poison out, quickly!". Tonto ran miles and miles back to his friend. The Lone Ranger asked him "What did the doctor say?". Tonto replied "He said... you going to die, kemosabe."
- Was subverted in City Slickers II, because it was just a thorn, not a rattlesnake bite.
- Parodied repeatedly with the "suck out the bullet" scenes in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
- Subverted in Father Goose. When Catherine thinks she's been bitten by a snake, Eckland tries sucking out the poison before calling his superiors for information on whether poisonous snakes are on the island. Before going to check, the CO tells Eckland not to try sucking the poison out until they know what they're dealing with.
Cmdr. Houghton: Don't try to be a movie hero and suck out the venom!
- Subverted in Life Is Beautiful, in which Guido pretends that Dora has been bitten on the thigh by a wasp and that he needs to suck out the poison. Dora's reaction is about what you'd expect.
- Happens (of course) in Snakes on a Plane. A female passenger sucks poison out of a boy's arm and saves his life, using an ancient technique she learnt as a child. To make it even sillier, this takes place a long time after the biting, and she gargles olive oil to protect her from getting poisoned.
- While that was fairly silly, she did make another incision first, which is more than most examples can say.
- In Woody Allen's Bananas, a group of rebels is going over jungle survival, each repeating "Suck out the poison", until Allen says "I...I could never suck the leg of someone I wasn't engaged to.". Minutes later the rebel sexy girl runs past, shirtless, clutching her breast, shouting "I've been bitten by a snake!" Allen and all the other men rush after her.
- In Mean Girls Cady mentions in voice over that when you are bitten by a snake you have to suck the poison out. It was a metaphor, but still not an acceptable mistake for the daughter of zoologists to make.
- In the Russian film Hearts Of Three, based on Jack London's novel of the same name, Francis Morgan meets his future Love Interest (and cousin) Leoncia. Minutes later, she is bitten by a snake. He sets her down and starts sucking poison out of the wound. A servant boy walks up, carrying the snake, and explains that the snake is not poisonous. Both feel a little awkward.
- The 2010 adaptation of True Grit contains a somewhat realistic example, in that it was done very quickly after the victim was bitten on an extremity (the hand) and it only keeps the victim alive until she can get proper medical attention and have the arm amputated.
- Shows up in the Jet Li film High Risk. Also doubles as a Chekhov's Gun - because the hero made an incision before sucking out the poison, there was venom on his knife, which ensures that the Big Bad isn't able to run for long when he escapes after being stabbed with that knife.
- In Betsy Byars' The TV Kid, the protagonist is hiding under a house when he gets bitten by a rattlesnake. Due to his watching a lot of TV, he knows that he has to cut Xs over the bite to get all the poison. He nearly dies anyway.
- Thomas Covenant gets to do this once, while suffering from a mouth wound. He ends up poisoned too but the little girl lives.
- In "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", Sherlock Holmes investigated a strange case where a mother had been caught biting her child, apparently displaying vampirism. In the end, he learned that the child had been deliberately poisoned using a blowgun with a poison-tipped dart, by the child's jealous elder half-brother, and that the mother had actually been sucking the poison out to save her child.
- Twilight, has a vampire sticking his mouth on an open wound to suck out the venom from another vampire.
- In Julia Quinn's The Viscount Who Loved Me, Anthony Bridgerton is utterly terrified of bees after his dad died of a bee sting. When Kate is stung by one, he freaks out and tries to suck out the poison from the sting...which was on her chest. They are then interrupted by his mother, her stepmother, and the biggest gossip in town. Shotgun Wedding ensues.
- In "Sun Moon and Talia", this caused Sleeping Beauty to wake.
- Sal's grandmother in Walk Two Moons is bitten by a water moccasin at a remote lake and this method is attempted. They do cut the wound open first and rush her to a hospital, and while she survives it's not without injury.
- Subverted somewhat in Stardust in that Septimus intends to do this, (the semi-right way, with an incision), but by the time he completes the thought, the poison has already paralyzed him and he dies. Very slowly.
- Subverted in Douglas Adams' Last Chance To See - the team visits the world's foremost expert on snake toxins and ask him precisely this. His response amounts to: "In my professional opinion: don't get bitten!"
- He also points out that a) you are unlikely to actually get much of the poison out, b) you will then have a mouth full of poison (although due to the high molecular weight of snake venom, it probably won't be absorbed by your mouth), and c) you will mostly likely infect the wound terribly in the process, and in that part of the world (Indonesia), that is a bad idea.
- John Steinbeck's The Pearl describes Juana using this on her baby Coyotito after he gets stung by a scorpion. However, it doesn't seem to be enough and she and her husband Kino try to find a pearl to pay for a doctor's visit. Soon after the two find the titular pearl, and the couple find to their great surprise that Coyotito's wound is healing.
- Happens in the Lexx episode "Twilight," with zombie venom being sucked out by a dead guy.
- In Robin Hood the midwife Matilda sucks out the bee-sting and its poison of a man who is allergic to them.
- Variation in the second season of True Blood, after getting silver lodged in his body, Eric tells Sookie she needs to suck it out of him. However, this turns out to be a ploy to get her to drink his blood.
- In an episode of The Benny Hill Show, a TV host gets an aborigine blowgun and a didgeridoo mixed up, puffing a dart into a comely lass' bottom. He tells her it's poisonous. She freaks out and says someone will have to suck out the poison. Suddenly every man in the studio, including the host, volunteers his services.
- As seen in the page quote, this trope is referenced (for the sake of innuendo) in the Benny Hill song "Rachel".
- In the American folk song "Springfield Mountain," a young man out mowing a field is bitten by a poisonous snake. In "serious" versions, he dies because no one comes to his aid. In others, his sweetheart tries to draw the poison but instead is killed herself when the venom enters a "rotten tooth."
- Happens in one of the Prince of Tennis dating games, more specifically Umibe no Secret. When Keigo Atobe is bitten by a snake, you can make the tomboyish main girl (default name: Ayaka Tsujimoto) try sucking the poison out of his injury, much to Atobe's shock. While it works and Atobe is fine afterwards, he actually does call Ayaka out for being so reckless.
- In Dark Cloud, when Ungaga is stung by a scorpion, Mikara sucks the venom out after Nagita refuses to do it.
- Oregon Trail II, an Edutainment game, is guilty of demonstrating this. Doesn't always work, of course.
- In the game Rogue Galaxy, the hero, Jaster, comes across a young girl while searching for a legendary town in a desert. The girl has been bitten by a snake, and you have the option of sucking the poison out. It later turns out it was a test to see if he was worthy of entering the town, so its entirely possible that there was no venom and that sucking the wound wouldn't have worked, but the attempt to help was enough to pass the test.
- Happens on Jin and Muneshige's paths in Yo-Jin-Bo when Sayori complains of a pain in her leg and Jin realizes she's been bitten by a snake. It's played purely for fanservice.
- In the old PC adventure/survival game Wilderness, this was the suggested method of treating a snakebite.
- Shows up in the Neverwinter Nights mod Sanctum of the Archmage after Robin is stung by a massive evil mutant spider-thing, but it is treated more realistically as it doesn't cure the poison (merely giving you a few extra hours to come up with the antidote) and has a chance of poisoning your main character too.
- Played for laughs in Idea no Hi. Recurring Gentleman Adventurer Manakata is first found by Rinko lying in pain from a poisonous snake bite asking you to suck it out. Where was he bitten that he wants a random highschool girl to suck? [spoiler]His ass.[/spoiler]
- In Sluggy Freelance, Torg does a variation of this by sucking out the alcoholic drink that got into Gwynn's eye. Umm... yeah.
- Much to his annoyance, nobody rushes to suck the poison out of Igor when he thinks he has been bitten by a snake in Dork Tower.
- Swords got it worse: "...from the wound, you idiot!"
- Parodied in an episode of Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, where Grim is stabbed repeatedly through the face by a giant monster scorpion, and then begs Dracula to suck out the poison (Dracula refuses, since actual vampires scrape the skin and then lap up blood). Never mind that Grim is a skeleton who has no circulatory system for venom to move through or metabolism for it to affect. And then later we see that Dracula did remove the venom... by scraping and licking (never mind that Grim has no blood)... on Grim's arm.
- Sierra from Total Drama World Tour did this to Cody, who is allergic to red ants and couldn't use his Epipen.
- Even worse, it was an allergic reaction. Thankfully, Sierra was able to get some of the poison out, so nothing too serious happened, but his hand was swollen and gauzed for the rest of the episode.
- Skipper mentioned that Rico did this once in The Penguins of Madagascar.
Skipper: Rico's never disobeyed an order before! (thoughtfully) Not even the time I forced him to suck the cobra venom out of my left buttock...
- Ed Edd and Eddy: Ed may sometimes attempt this, as well as "CPR" which involves inflating and deflating the person involved. this is always played for laughs of course.
- There is a Russian joke about What? Where? When? (a team trivia game), where the team is asked the following question: "If you are walking alone in the desert, and a blunt-nosed viper bites you in the penis, what are you supposed to do?" The team is thinking, and finally they give the answer "The man should try to get to the nearest village, and there, to ask someone to suck the venom out." Then the correct answer is revealed: A blunt-nosed viper never bites above the knee, and if your penis is that long, you can suck the venom out yourself.
- This trope is the subject of a very famous vulgar Shaggy Dog Story joke involving a cowboy who got a snakebite on his...personal snake. "The Doc says you're a dead man," says his friend.
- Robert Baden-Powell (of Boy Scouting fame) is often credited for promoting this technique for snakebite. He first heard of it observing Hindu Fakirs and snake charmers in India, who have have used the "suck the poison out" method since time immemorial. Snake charmers today often use an even easier trick - they de-fang the cobras with a pair of pliers.
- According to the official biography of Genghis Khan, he was saved by his companion Jelme after being hit with a poisoned arrow. The description by people who knew such things was definitely neither clean nor pretty: the first thing weakened and dazed Temujin saw the next morning was ground around him all splattered with his blood which Jelme had to spit out in process of cleaning his wound.
- Likewise, a legend says that Eleanor of Castile saved the life of her husband, King Edward I of England, by sucking a wound on his arm made by a poisoned arrow.
- In a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien it is mentioned that while a young boy of about 5-7, he was attacked by a venomous animal and the venom was successfully sucked from his bloodstream in some manner by a quick thinking nanny.
- The smart alternative to sucking the venom out with your mouth is to use a device called an extractor. Any store that sells camping supplies will have them next to the first aid kits.
- In his book Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams talks about how leery he was of going to visit the island of Komodo (home of the Komodo Dragon) because it has "more venomous snakes per square yard than anywhere else in the world". He and his companions go to visit a renowned expert of poisonous animals for some useful advice. It amounts to "Don't get bitten". The man explains that the snakes will avoid you if you don't provoke them, and that sucking the poison out would probably not get most of it, would drastically increase the chances of infection, and would result in the sucker having a mouth full of poison (this last one isn't so bad, as most snake venom has a high molecular weight and generally can't be absorbed through the mouth). He also dismisses the usefulness of a tourniquet, claiming you'd have to have the limb removed, and if you can find a doctor in that part of Indonesia you'd be willing to have cut off your limb, well, good luck. The only viable solution is to apply a pressure bandage, keep the area elevated but lower than the heart, and get medical attention immediately. But since you're on the island of Komodo, "immediately" probably means a few days, so you're dead. So to repeat: Don't get bitten.
- Even if a tourniquet isn't misused badly enough to cause necrosis, there's research claiming it raises the risk of thrombosis even when used in surgery (i.e. much more controlled conditions). And it can be counterproductive anyway: if tissues are not given their oxygen, they tend to respond with increase of permeability to let more in, which can help the toxin to reach the bloodstream faster (according to research on snake venom in 1963, temporary limb ligature accelerated death of rabbits from an injection), though this may vary between the venom types.