MANAGEMENT OF SNAKE-BITES
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India has the highest number of deaths due to snakebites in the world. WHO estimates the number of deaths at 50,000 per annum. The outcome of snake bites depends on numerous factors, including the species of snake, the area of the body bitten, the amount of venom injected, and the health conditions of the person. Although the majority of snake species are non-venomous [non-poisonous] and typically kill their prey with constriction rather than venom, venomous snakes [poisonous] often bite their prey as a method of hunting, but also for defensive purposes against predators. Since the physical appearance of snakes may differ, there is often no practical way to identify a species and professional medical attention should be immediately sought for all snake bites.
Catching snakes is something that should be left up to professionals who are trained in snake handling and are familiar with recognizing poisonous species. Some methods of differentiating between venomous and non-venomous snakes are:
- Look at the head. Most venomous snakes usually have triangular shaped heads.
- Check out the colours. Some venomous snakes such as the coral snake have bright colours to tell you that it’s dangerous.
- Watch for warning signs. All snakes have some kind of warnings. Rattlesnakes loudly rattle the rattle on their tail. Other snakes just hiss and snap at you.
- Check the tail. The bottom of the tail of venomous snakes looks the same as the rest of the be If the snake has a cross pattern (like a diamond shape) it is non-venomous
Steps to be followed in case of Non-venomous Snake-bites:
- Immediately seek medical attention, clean the wound carefully with clean water and Stay calm. Use an alcohol soaked pad if one is available. Try not to panic.
- Treat the wound by applying a thin coating of antibiotic ointment.
- Bandage the wound. This will protect it and help to discourage infection.
- Although not likely to be life-threatening, bites from non-venomous snakes can still be painful and lead to infection.
Steps to be followed in case of Venomous Snake-bites:
- Get the victim away from the snake. Your first priority is to make sure that neither you nor the victim receives any additional bite.
- Remove clothing or constricting items. Bites from venomous snakes can cause rapid and severe swelling. Remove clothing or jewellery from the area.
- Minimize your activity. Higher levels of activity will increase blood flow and increase the spread of venom throughout your body.
- Do not cut the bite site or use your mouth to suck out the poison. These are likely to be ineffective and can increase the likelihood of infection.
- Clean the bite site with soap and water. Cover the wound with a dressing.
- Wrap a tight, but not uncomfortable elastic bandage two to three inches above the bite site. The elastic bandage should not be uncomfortable as that will lead to the person unconsciously flexing their muscles, undoing the purpose of immobilizing the limb.
- The patient must be transported to a place where they can receive medical care (dispensary or hospital) as quickly, but as safely and comfortably possible. Any movement especially movement of the bitten limb, must be reduced to an absolute minimum to avoid increasing the systemic absorption of venom.
Most snakes are not venomous. Most venomous snakes have triangular shaped heads.
Your best option is to avoid snakebite. Take care in places where snakes are common. Beware when lifting objects like pieces of wood, snakes may hide under them
Be aware of the snake bite hazards and risks while working at construction sites. Proper awareness of preventive measures and post actions in case of snake bite incident could save our lives.