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Snake Bites: Types, Symptoms, Management, Treatment and Prevention

What is Snake bite?

Snakebite

Snakebite is a mark or a puncture wound caused by the bite of a poisonous or a non-poisonous snake. The signs of a poisonous Snakebite can range from simple puncture wounds to fang marks and can lead to death, while those of the non-poisonous snakes can lead to infections and not death.

Causes of Snake bite:

Why do snakes bite? Well, most of them bite when provoked and others do it because they think they will be affected.

  • Provocation that leads to a Snake going into a self-defense mode and hence attacking.
  • Accidental stepping onto a Snake.
  • Getting too close to a Snake.
  • Not covering the body entirely while moving in areas known to have Snakes.

Types of Snake bite:

There are two types of Snake bites – Poisonous or Venomous and Non-Poisonous or Non-Venomous

Poisonous Snake bites:

Poisonous Snakes inject Venom into the punctured wound. The symptoms produced can be divided into four types based on the amount of toxin pumped

  • Cardiotoxins: act on the heart.
  • Neurotoxins: act on nervous system tissue.
  • Cytotoxins: work on tissue at the site of the bite or on tissue that directly absorbs the toxin.
  • Hemotoxins: work on the blood coagulation system and may cause internal bleeding.

Non-Poisonous Snake bite:

Non-poisonous Snake bite does not lead to critical complications or death, but they still need to be treated by a medical expert. Once the injury is identified as a non-poisonous Snake bite, rinse it with clean water and seek medical help. If left untreated, these could lead to infections.

[ Read: Scorpion Sting Management and Prevention ]

Signs and symptoms of Snake bite:

The first thing to do after a Snake bite is to take a look at the wound. For a poisonous Snake bite, we find a pair of puncture wounds side by side. Most other Snake bites will have a series of teeth marks without the two puncture wounds. This is not a fool-proof method though, and hence the symptoms that follow the bite need to be observed.

Symptoms of Poisonous Snake bite:

The symptoms of a poisonous Snake bite include local symptoms and systemic symptoms.

Some local symptoms include,

  • Blood discharge
  • Fang marks
  • Swelling at the site of the bite
  • Minimum to severe localized pain
  • Redness and bruising

Some systemic symptoms include

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever or chills
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Numbness and tingling, especially in the mouth
  • Seizures

Rattle Snakebite Symptoms:

Most rattlesnakes have venom composed primarily of hemotoxic properties, which means they affect the blood circulatory system. It is quite painful and life-threatening. The person needs to be treated immediately. These are found in North America and Canada. Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding
  • Breathing Difficulty
  • Blurred Vision
  • Eyelid Drooping
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Rapid Pulse or Weak Pulse
  • Swelling
  • Tingling
  • Thirst

Viper Snakebite Symptoms:

The Russell’s Pit Viper is more dangerous than most other poisonous snakes because it is very harmful you even if one survives the initial bite. Symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding, especially in gums, urine and sputum within 20 minutes of the bite.
  • Limb movement effected if the bite was on a limb (hands or legs)
  • Low blood pressure and heart rate
  • Blistering

Cobra Snakebite Symptoms:

Cobras aren’t quite as rapid and efficient at injecting venom as vipers, but are still poisonous. Symptoms include:

  • Neurotoxic Symptoms
  • Respiratory Obstruction and Failure
  • Paralysis
  • Difficulty in Swallowing

Copperhead Snakebite Symptoms:

When compared to other poisonous Snakes, Copperhead’s venom is mild. Their bites are rarely ever fatal in humans but can be very painful. Symptoms include:

  • Severe Pain
  • Shock
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Weakness
  • Change in Skin Colour

Cottonmouth Snakebite Symptoms:

Cottonmouth venom is composed mainly of hemotoxins. This toxin can prevent the blood from clotting and can hence be very dangerous. Symptoms include:

  • Temporary or permanent damage to muscles
  • Loss of limbs if the bite is on limbs (hands or legs)
  • Extreme pain
  • Internal bleeding

Coral Snake Bite Symptoms:

These are highly venomous snakes with their venom containing powerful neurotoxins. There is usually no pain or swelling from a Coral Snake Bite. Though these are of Asian lineage, they are commonly found in South East of The United States. They have black, yellow and red bands on their body. Symptoms include:

  • Slurred Speech
  • Double Vision
  • Muscular Paralysis

Brown Snake Bite Symptoms:

Although the quantity of venom injected by a Brown Snake is usually small, it is highly poisonous. Australia is the home to this species. Symptoms include:

  • Severe blood clotting issues
  • Nervous system dysfunction
  • Kidneys failure

Garter Snake Bite Symptoms:

This is one of the most commonly found Snake species in the Eastern United States and Canada. Its bite is relatively harmless. Symptoms include:

  • Minor swelling
  • Itching
  • Allergy in rare cases

[ Read: Most Venomous Snakes in The World ]

Non-Venomous Snakebite Symptoms:

Non-Venomous Snake Bite does not have any immediate severe symptoms, but can lead to significant infections and damage of tissue.

Snake Bite Management:

Management of snake bite can be achieved through these steps.

  1. First Aid Treatment
  2. Transport to Hospital
  3. Clinical Assessment/ Emergency Diagnosis
  4. Antivenom Treatment
  5. Treatment of the bitten area.
  6. Followup

1. First Aid Treatment for Snake Bite:

What to do after a snake bite? The first aid treatment for snake bite play a crucial role in saving the life of the victim. The first thing that has to be done is to identify the snake bite, which includes knowing if it is poisonous or not.

First-aid Treatment for a Non-poisonous Snakebite:

Rinse the wound with clean water and then apply an anti-bacterial soap to wash the wound. Dry it and allow it to sit uncovered. Visit the doctor in case of any if the wound does not heal quickly.

First-aid Treatment for a Poisonous Snakebite:

If the bite is poisonous, get medical help immediately. Meanwhile, restrict the movement of the victim and keep their posture such that the bite–affected area is below the heart level. This will reduce the flow of poison. Pressure immobilization is one first-aid technique that uses a pressure device and does immobilization to the affected limb to help in delaying the venom absorption by the body.

Precautions for a Snakebite:

  • Keep the person calm and let them rest.
  • Let the person lie down with the wound lying at a lower level from the heart.
  • Remove any jewellery, tight clothing or other accessories present in the areas around the bite.

2. Transport to Hospital:

Immediately transport victim to the nearest hospital by ambulance or any vehicle after first aid treatment. Make sure that the victim does not sleep or moves his/her bitten body part.

3. Snake bite Treatment:

Snake bite is a medical emergency. Seek medical help immediately. If the treatment is delayed for any reason, monitor the vital signs of the victim. The treatment differs based on the type of snake bite.

Poisonous Snakebite Treatment:

For victims in a state of shock (cardiovascular toxicity), resuscitation is needed. An anti-venom treatment is given after clinical examination. A tetanus injection might also be required based on the last time taken.

Non-poisonous Snakebite Treatment:

Large snakes can sometimes cause damage that needs stitches. If the bite leaves large cuts, visit a doctor immediately for treatment. Not getting treated can cause infections and other problems.

4. Follow-Up:

A thorough follow up is a must even after the victim gets discharged. Some poisonous snakes like vipers reverse the symptoms. At that time, the patient should be returned to the hospital.

Prevention of a Snake bite:

  • Avoid walking barefoot or in open footwear in areas where snakes are expected to be present.
  • Avoid handling snakes unless properly trained to do so.
  • Use walking sticks to tap while walking in areas where you can’t see your feet.
  • When hiking or trekking in an areas known to have snakes, wear full pants and closed shoes or boots.
  • Snakes usually make their shelters under debris and other scrap materiel. So, keep it clean your surroundings.
  • If you find the ant hills, rat holes around you, close them immediately.
  • Use snake repellents like fencing, traps and sprays.
  • There are some of the plants that can repellent snakes effectively. So grow them in your garden.
  • Try to make your mongoose as your pet that can get rid of any type of snake around you.

[ Read: Top 10 Snake Repellent Plants and Trees ]

Like all animals in our world, Snakes like to be left alone and are scared of Humans. Most among them are harmless and also avoid people unless threatened in some way. Snake bite can cause trauma and its side effects range from less severe skin blisters to more severe organ failure related diseases. It is very important to be aware of the facts and myths surrounding Snake bites and share it with family and friends.

Images: Shutterstock

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