Proper care for snake bites can mean a difference between death and survival for an individual who sustained one. Most snake species are relatively harmless but unless you are certain that you can correctly identify the snake, you have to treat it as a medical emergency.
What you need to know about snake bites
- Children face a higher risk for serious complications and even death due to their smaller body size.
- Snakes that are found in and close to water are usually mistaken as poisonous.
- Not all venomous snakes are fully charged or packed with venom. Even those who are fully charged do not always deliver a deadly dose.
- A snake is known to bite for up to an hour after it is already dead as a reflex.
Other possible factors that can affect the severity of a snake bite include the overall health of the individual, age, size and psychological state. Take note that the nature of the snake bite can also vary such as the amount of venom that was injected, penetration of one or both fangs, closeness to major blood vessels and location of the bite. In addition, the health of the snake as well as the interval since it last utilized its venom mechanism also plays a vital role.
These variables make each snake bite distinct. Depending on certain circumstances, the bite from a mildly venomous snake can be life-threatening while a highly venomous snake may not. Additionally, a snake bite should be treated seriously.
Signs and symptoms
The usual signs and symptoms of snake bites include the following:
- Localized effect where there is minor pain and redness in over 90% of cases but this varies depending on the location
- Bites from some cobras and vipers can cause severe pain within the local area that oftentimes becomes tender and intensely swollen within 5 minutes. In some cases, there is also bleeding and blistering in the bite area.
- Bites from pit vipers include weakness, lethargy, nausea and vomiting. Over time, life-threatening symptoms develop such as rapid breathing, low blood pressure as well as altered perception of surroundings, severe tachycardia and respiratory failure.
First aid for snake bites
- Call for emergency help right away if possible.
- It is vital to stay calm and remember that most snake bites are not fatal.
- Limit movement if possible.
- If the individual was bitten on the arm or finger, remove any bracelets, rings or watches. Loosen up any tight clothing in case swelling occurs.
- Apply a pressure bandage on the bite site. If the snake bite is on the trunk, neck or head, apply first pressure. Do not limit chest movements since the breathing will be affected.
- Utilize a splint or sling on the bitten limb to limit movement.
- In case there is no bandage on hand, you have to trace the inflammation starting at the edge of the swelling using a pen around the bite site and mark the time clearly next to it. Once it progresses, create a new mark noting the time of every new mark besides every tracing. This information is vital in monitoring the development of swelling.
- If possible, instruct the individual to lie down and keep the bite site at body level. Elevating the affected limb can cause the venom to travel throughout the body at a rapid rate. If it is held down, it can increase the swelling.
- If possible, bring the individual to the nearest emergency department for proper treatment.