Snake Bites

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What Are Snake Bites?

A bite from a venomous snake can be deadly, and should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even a bite from a harmless snake can be serious, leading to an allergic reaction or an infection. Venomous snake bites can produce an array of symptoms, including localized pain and swelling, convulsions, and nausea—even paralysis.

There are first aid steps you can take after a snake bite occurs, such as cleaning the wound, remaining calm, and immobilizing the affected area. However, it is essential to get the bite victim to a medical facility immediately for emergency treatment. If treated in time, the outlook for recovery is good.

To identify a snake bite, consider the following general symptoms:

  • two puncture wounds
  • swelling and redness around the wounds
  • pain at the bite site
  • difficulty breathing
  • vomiting and nausea
  • blurred vision
  • sweating and salivating
  • numbness in the face and limbs

First Aid for Snake Bites

It is essential to get a victim of a snake bite to a medical facility for emergency treatment as quickly as possible. However, there are some tips that you should also keep in mind:

  • Call ambulance immediately.
  • Keep the victim calm and still. Movement can cause the venom to move more quickly through the body. Consider making a splint to restrict the movement of the affected area.
  • Remove constricting clothing or jewelry. The area of the bite will likely swell, so it is important to remove these items quickly.
  • Carry or transport the victim by vehicle. This person should not be allowed to walk.
  • If the snake is dead, take it with you for identification. Do not waste time hunting it down, though.

There are also several outdated first aid techniques that are now believed to be unhelpful or even harmful. Do not do any of the following:

  • Do not use a tourniquet.
  • Do not cut into the snake bite.
  • Do not use a cold compress on the bite.
  • Do not give the victim any medications unless directed by a doctor.
  • Do not raise the area of the bite above the victim’s heart.
  • Do not attempt to suck the venom out by mouth
  • Do not use a pump suction device. While these devices were formerly recommended for pumping out snake venom, it is now believed that they are more likely to do harm than good.

Treatment for Snake Bites

The most important thing to do for a snake bite victim is to get him or her emergency medical help as soon as possible. A doctor will evaluate the victim to decide on a specific course of treatment. In some cases, a bite from a venomous snake is not life-threatening. The severity depends on the location of the bite and the age and health of the victim. If the bite is not serious, the doctor may simply clean the wound and give the victim a tetanus vaccine.

If the situation is life threatening, the doctor may administer an antivenom. This is a substance that is created with snake venom to counter the snake bite symptoms. It is injected into the victim intravenously. The sooner the antivenom is used, the more effective it will be.

Prevention of Snake Bites

Snake bites can be prevented in many cases. Refrain from approaching or handling snakes in the wild. Avoid areas of tall grass and piled leaves, as well as rock and woodpiles. These are typical places in which snakes like to hide.

When working outside where snakes may be present, wear tall boots, long pants, and leather gloves. Avoid working outside during the night and in warmer weather, which is when snakes are most active.