Always seek immediate medical attention if you’ve been bitten by a snake, as it could be a matter of life and death.
What are snake bites?
Snakes bite either to capture prey or for self-defense. But since there are so many different types of snakes including both venomous and non-venomous not every snake bite is created equal. Different species carry different types of venom.
Types of venom
- Cytotoxins: Cause swelling and tissue damage wherever you’ve been bitten.
- B. Haemorrhagins: Disrupt the blood vessels.
- C. Anti-clotting agents: Prevent the blood from clotting.
- D. Neurotoxins: Cause paralysis or other damage to the nervous system.
- E. Myotoxins: Break down muscles.
What are the symptoms of a snake bite?
- If it’s a dry snake bite, you’ll likely just have swelling and redness around the area of the bite.
But if it’s a venomous snake, you’ll have more widespread symptoms, which commonly include:
- Bite marks on your skin. These can be puncture wounds or smaller, less recognizable marks.
- Sharp, throbbing, burning pain around the bite that you may not feel for a little while after the bite.
- You may also feel pain all the way up whichever limb was affected, such as in the groin for a bite on the leg or the armpit for a bite on the arm.
But not everyone feels pain. For example, a bite from a coral snake can be almost painless at first, but still deadly.
- Redness, swelling, and tissue damage, or complete destruction, in the area of the bite.
- Abnormal blood clotting and bleeding.
- Severe bleeding can lead to a hemorrhage or kidney failure.
- Low blood pressure, a faster heart rate, and a weaker pulse.
- Nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision.
- Difficulty breathing, or in serious cases, complete loss of breath.
- Increased production of saliva and sweat.
- Weakness in your muscles and numbness in the face or limbs.
- If you have an allergic reaction to a snake bite, you could suffer from anaphylactic shock.
- Difficulty speaking due to extreme tightness in the throat and a swollen tongue.
- Young children may become very pale.
- Constant cough and/or wheezing.
Properly identifying the snake can help with the treatment, though it’s very difficult to do so.
Also, be sure to take the following steps immediately:
- Remove any jewelry or watches, as these could cut into the skin if swelling occurs.
- Keep the area of the bite below the heart in order to slow the spread of venom through the bloodstream.
- Remain still and calm. If you can, roll over to your side and rest in the recovery position.
- Moving around a lot will cause the venom to spread faster through the body.
- Cover the bite with a clean, dry bandage.
Try to use a pressure immobilization bandage if you can. This type of bandage should be tightly wrapped around the bite. Then, wrap another bandage around the entire limb, so that it’s immobilized.
While these are all useful precautionary measures, the ultimate treatment for a snake bite is antivenom. Try to get the victim of the bite antivenom as quickly as possible.
Knowing the size, color, and shape of the snake can help your doctor determine which antivenom is best for that particular situation.
The antivenom will be given either in an injection or through an IV (through a needle in the arm) so that it can take action as quickly as possible. While either of these methods may produce side effects, they’ve proven to be the most effective. One of those side effects is serum sickness disease, which can appear four to 10 days after receiving the antivenom.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider or doctor to ask about serum sickness disease: – Rashes. – Itching. – Joint pain. – Fever. – Kidney failure. – Swollen lymph nodes.
What shouldn’t you do when treating a snake bite?
- Don’t pick up the snake or try to wrap it up or kill it, as this will increase your chance of getting bitten again. Even dead snakes can bite.
- Don’t apply a tourniquet.
- Don’t cut into the wound at all.
- Don’t try to suck out the venom.
- Don’t apply ice or use water to submerge the wound.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Don’t drink beverages with caffeine.