Snake bites

Did you know that the majority of snake bites are not venomous, but because patients go into a state of panic they put themselves at risk of severe danger?

Panicking increases blood circulation

It is important to remain calm. Panicking also increases blood circulation which could be detrimental.

Although research shows that a small percentage of bites are from venomous snakes, snake fangs are not sterile and therefore the puncture wounds can easily be infected. “This could lead to most commonly a condition called cellulitis. This is an infection of the tissue under the skin and depending on the bacteria involved, can be serious and life threatening.

Bites from potentially lethal snakes could cause traumatic injuries through tissue destruction or neurological problems. Smaller adders and snakes, like Burrowing Asps, can cause swelling, pain and tissue death (necrosis). Snake venom can kill by either causing the muscles to stop functioning which causes paralysis and suffocation. It can possibly cause the body to go into shock and the organs to shut down. It can also in some cases cause you to bleed uncontrollably which will cause your death.

What to do?

  • Place the patient at rest, do not allow walking/exercise unless in immediate danger.
  • Reassure the patient. With early first aid and hospital care, snake bites are rarely fatal.
  • Apply a bandage to the area as this limits lymphatic drainage. Immobilise the limb if possible to limit movement (splint).
  • Give analgesia but avoid aspirin.

A medical practitioner will be able to assess the likelihood of the bite being venomous, the depth of the bite and possibility of underlying structure damage, for example tendon sheaths or joint spaces that may have been penetrated. A booster tetanus injection may be required as this is a serious life threatening condition that is easily preventable through vaccination.

  • Do not wash or cut the wound or try to suck out the venom.
  • Do not use home remedies or ointments.
  • No ice, heat packs or electrical shocks should be used.
  • Alcohol and aspirin should be avoided.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.

If you see a snake, try to get away. If you are more than two body lengths away from the snake, walk around it. If you are closer than that, freeze and try to determine which direction the snake is moving in. Try another direction for yourself. If the snake is approaching, a quick exit is safer.


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