It is estimated that as many as 2.5 million cases of venomous snake bites happen every year, and about 125,000 of these cases result in death. It is in Africa, Southeast Asia, Brazil and India where many deaths due to venomous snake bite take place. Whether venomous or not, the bite of a snake should be treated seriously.
Venomous snake bites can be fatal especially if the correct anti-venom is not administered right away. Children bitten by venomous snakes are at higher risk of serious complications or death due to their smaller bodies which allow the venom to travel faster. With proper and prompt treatment, complications and even death can be avoided.
Causes of Venomous Snake Bites
Snakes tend to avoid people. However, their last resort is to bite especially when surprised or threatened. Snakes responsible for venomous bites include rattlesnakes, cobras, coral snakes, copperheads and cottonmouths. Various species of snakes found at local zoos also tend to be venomous.
There are many snakes in and near bodies of water that are wrongly taken as being venomous. The fact is there are plenty of snakes that are harmless and incapable of inflicting venomous bites. However, especially if you are not sure that you know the type of snake that bit or it immediately disappeared from view, the bite has to be taken as venomous.
Symptoms of Snake Bites
Different snakes cause different bite symptoms. However, all snake bites tend to cause bleeding from the wound, burning sensation in the bitten area, severe pain, nausea, vomiting, profuse sweating, increased thirst, rapid pulse rate, paleness and even fainting.
The bite of venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths tend to be very painful as soon as it takes place. Various symptoms commonly occur immediately. They include blurring of vision, breathing difficulty, decrease in blood pressure, weakened pulse, increased thirst, weakness, changes in skin color and tissue damage.
Initially, the bite of a coral snake may be painless. Major symptoms may show up only after hours had passed. Other than the symptoms mentioned earlier, coral snake bites also tend to cause slurred speech, inflammation of the tongue and throat, difficulty in swallowing, excessive salivation, headache and abdominal pain. The bite of a coral snake can be fatal especially when left untreated right away.
Snake Bite First Aid
The first thing you need to do when someone is bitten by a snake is to get medical assistance. This is especially true if you notice that the bite has begun to swell and change in color — indicators that the snake may be venomous.
If possible, call up the nearest hospital before you get to the emergency room so that the correct anti-venom may be prepared.
Keep the person from panicking by reassuring him or her that a snake bite can be treated without problem in an emergency room.
It’s a good idea to keep the bite area below the level of the person’s heart. This will considerably slow down the movement of the venom in the bloodstream
If a pump suction device is available, grab it and use according to the directions provided by the manufacturer.
Constantly monitor the victim’s vital signs such as the blood pressure, breathing rate, pulse rate and temperature.
Bringing the dead snake responsible for the bite is recommended only if it can be done safely. Be very cautious when getting the dead animal transported. That’s because a snake may still be able to give a bite long after it has died, caused by muscle reflex.
Refrain from doing things that you commonly see being done in movies such as applying tourniquets or cutting into a snake bite using a knife or razor to have the venom sucked out by mouth.
Generally, it’s not a good idea to waste time hunting down the snake and risking your life.
Snake Bite Treatment
Upon arrival at the emergency room, the doctor will attempt to provide treatment for the most life-threatening symptoms first. For instance, a tube attached to a ventilator machine may be inserted into the throat of the victim if he or she is having trouble breathing. Intravenous fluids may be administered to someone who is in shock.
The doctor will clean the wound and attempt to look for broken fangs. Some snake bite wounds call for the administration of antibiotics to ward off infection.
It is very likely for the doctor to give the victim a tetanus shot. This is especially true if he or she had not received one in the last 5 years.
If necessary and available, the right anti-venom may be administered by the doctor. This treatment may cause side effects as well as serum sickness within 5 to 10 days of therapy. Signs and symptoms of serum sickness include achy joints, fever, itchiness, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes — all of which are non-life threatening.