Being bitten by a Snake can be one of the most devastating moments anyone can experience. Whether you were the one bitten, or you are around the place where the incident happened, no one is ever at rest until the person bitten by the snake is stable enough. In an attempt to render snakebite first aid treatment on the victim, a lot of people may make mistakes that could predispose the victim to lots of health risks.
So for this reason, this post was created to cover the following;
- How to confirm it’s a Snake bite
- How do you know if a Snake is poisonous?
- How to give a Snakebite First aid and Initial Management
- Things to avoid doing while giving Snakebite first aid
- How to Prevent Snakebites
All these are very necessary especially when dealing with a Snake bite where there is no doctor, or where there is no healthcare facility around.
The idea of being bitten by a snake may sound a bit obsolete to some people especially those living in cities and towns. But it still happens, although it is more experienced in those living in certain parts of the world like Australia, South-East Asia, and some parts of Africa.
So let’s quickly jump into the first question.
Table of Contents
- How Do you Know If One is Bitten By a Snake?
- How Do You Know If the Snake is Poisonous?
How to Give a Snakebite First aid and Initial Management
- Step 1: Move the victim beyond striking distance of the snake
- Step 2: Have the victim lie down with the wound below the heart
- Step 3: Keep the victim calm and at rest
- Step 4: Cover the wound with a loose, sterile bandage
- Step 5: Remove any jewelry from the area that was bitten
- Step 6: Remove shoes if the leg or foot was bitten
- Step 7: Take the Patient to a Nearby Hospital, or Health Center
- Things to avoid doing while giving a Snakebite first aid
- How to Prevent Snake Bites
How Do you Know If One is Bitten By a Snake?
There are thousands of organisms that can bite people and in the process inflict serious pain in them. This is usually a concern if the victim was bitten in a bushy area or a forest. So distinguishing Snakebites from the bites of other animals becomes important.
Below are the immediate obvious signs that confirms that a person was bitten by a snake:
- The person feels pain at the site of the bite
- There is presence of two puncture wounds at the site of bite
- The bite site will be swollen and reddish in color
- Person may experience difficulty in breathing
- Blurred vision
- Abnormal sweating and excessive salivation
- Numbness in the face and limbs
- Nausea and vomiting
- Thirst and craving to drink water and a lot more!
Note: Some of these signs are only associated with bites from specific snakes. Read more about the various venomous snakes.
How Do You Know If the Snake is Poisonous?
There are about 200 poisonous snake species in the world out of over 3,500 various snake species. Also, a Snakebite does not necessarily contain venom, but this does not mean that you should not apply the necessary snakebite first aid and initial treatment.
The only special way to know if you were bitten by a poisonous or non-poisonous snake is through their symptoms, and if you are a snake expert. It is also good to note that the color of a snake will not always tell you whether it is poisonous or not. There are certain Snakes that may look alike, but all are not poisonous. A typical example is a green mamba (poisonous), and the smooth green snake.
The section Below Summarizes examples of venomous and Non Venomous Snakes
LIST OF POISONOUS SNAKES
- Elapidae: Examples include: Cobra, Mamba, Coral snakes 2.
- True Vipers: Examples include: Russell’s viper, puff adder, gaboon viper, saw-scaled viper, European Viper
- Pit Vipers: Examples include: Rattlesnakes, water moccasins, bushmaster, and copperheads
- Water Snakes
LIST OF NON-POISONOUS SNAKES
- Boa Constrictors
- Corn Snakes
- Rat Snakes
- King Snakes
- Gopher Snakes
- Four Lined Snakes
- Smooth Snakes
- Grass Snake
How to Give a Snakebite First aid and Initial Management
Step 1: Move the victim beyond striking distance of the snake
The first most important step in snake bite management is safety. You have to make sure the snake does not bite the victim or anyone else within the point of the incident. It is not advisable to attack the snake or to pursue it, as it is already irritated and in an exciting mode and could do more harm if further provoked.
But if there are more people around, like in a forest camp, it is important that the snake is killed to prevent it from biting more people. But keep in mind that the snakebite first aid should be commenced immediately. So if there are more people, the most experienced persons should commence the snake bite management, while some should be concerned about keeping the area safe, and the rest should be calling for help. But in a situation where it is just you and the victim, then just keep the victim away beyond the striking distance of the snake, and continue with the other steps below.
After keeping the victim at a safe distance, the next step in the Snakebite first aid process is to ensure reduce the possible spread of the venom. This is discussed in step 2 below.
Step 2: Have the victim lie down with the wound below the heart
The reason for this is to prevent the venom from spreading to the heart. Remember that the heart pumps blood to all other parts of the body, so the aim is to prevent the venom from spreading to all other parts of the body and the important organs like the brain, Kidneys, Lungs, etc.
Now, this will be difficult if the site of the snake bite is close to the heart already like the arms, the head, neck, and abdomen. In this case, this can be very fatal. And it is advisable to seek help from a nearby health center, call an ambulance and take the person to the hospital.
Step 3: Keep the victim calm and at rest
Remaining as still as possible will keep the venom from spreading. So it will be good to advise the victim at this point to remain quiet, calm, and co-operative if they will have higher chances of surviving the bite of a venomous snake.
Step 4: Cover the wound with a loose, sterile bandage
If you can’t find a bandage around, it is okay but tries and get to the health center as quick as possible. Never use a dirty cloth or handkerchief to cover the wound, it could make the wound to be infected.
Step 5: Remove any jewelry from the area that was bitten
If the victim has any jewelry or metallic material around the region of the snake bite, remove it immediately. It could react badly with the venom and cause more problems, also, it could mount unnecessary pressure on the area of snake bite.
Step 6: Remove shoes if the leg or foot was bitten
The next step in the snakebite first aid and management is to remove any footwear worn by the victim assuming the person was bitten in the leg. The reason is to prevent the body tissues in that area from being seriously damaged, which could even result in the death of such tissues. There is a need to ensure that blood still reaches the part of the limb below the region of the snake bite to prevent such areas from dying.
Step 7: Take the Patient to a Nearby Hospital, or Health Center
The final step in the initial snake bite first aid is to take the victim to the closest hospital or healthcare center nearby. From there, appropriate care will be taken of the person and if it is a venomous snake, the appropriate anti-venom will be administered and the person will be alright.
Kindly Note The major target while giving a snake bite first aid is to keep the victim as stable as you can and take him/her to the nearest health center. The sooner you take the victim to a hospital, the better their chances of surviving a venomous snake bite.
Things to avoid doing while giving a Snakebite first aid
- Do not attempt to cut or suck the wound
Just like in blood donation, there are certain myths and superstitious beliefs about snakebite management. A lot of people have a false belief that cutting open the wound, biting off the wound, or trying to suck out the venom will make the victim free. Kindly note that these are all myths and have no medical significance except that you will put yourself at risk of being infected by the venom and you will place the snake bite victim at serious health risks. So please do not cut, suck, or bite the wound.
- Do not apply tourniquet and do not tie the wound with anything
It is a very common belief among people that applying pressure or ceasing blood flow to the part of the body above the region of snake bite will help prevent the spread of the venom. But while this may be true, it is a very bad practice. Tying the area will cut-off blood supply to the other parts of the body below the tourniquet, and will result in tissue death or what is called Necrosis of the tissues below the area. So avoid applying pressure, tying up the affected regions, or applying a tourniquet, it will do more harm than good.
- Do not bite the Snake
One other myth that many people in some parts of Africa and South-East Asia believe is that when bitten by a snake, you should try and capture the snake and return the bite. Please do not try this! You will put yourself into much more serious trouble. Remember the rule of keeping a safe distance from the snake. It should be the first thing you do when bitten by a snake.
Find out more things you should not do when bitten by a snake here.
How to Prevent Snake Bites
- Avoid their Natural habitat: This includes all places that snakes may live in including bushes, tall grasses, forests, swamps, marshes, uncompleted buildings, deep holes, bluffs, water bodies not under regulation like village streams, etc.
- Camp in Groups: If you must visit such dangerous places like the bushes and the rest, make sure you do so with a group of people, not just you.
- While outdoors, before you take another step or sit down, ensure you look carefully.
- Always wear protective clothes and gears while camping like leather or rubber boots, long pants (trousers), Long sleeves, Hats, helmets (depending on the nature of the event).
- While walking at night, always use a flashlight to guide you.
- Do not play with snakes, handle or touch them, even if you think they are dead. Some snakes undergo what is called basking under the sun once in a while. Don’t think they are dead. Also, snakes that were just killed a few moments ago might still bite by reflex.
Important Point: Most Snake bites do occur between the month of April and October. So it is advisable to be more careful while visiting their natural habitat during that time of the year.