First Aid Treatment for Snake Bites

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There is an estimated 2.5 million venomous snake bites each year, with 125,000 resulting to deaths. Snake bites happen when a snake bites (and punctures) the skin and though most are not dangerous, some snake bites are venomous. Although it accounts for a large number of injuries in the world, mortality due to snake bites are most common in Southeast Asia, India, some parts of Africa, and Brazil.

All snakes usually avoid humans and only bite when they are surprised or feel threatened. Biting serves as a last resort for these creatures.

Venomous snake bites can be severely life-threatening if not given immediate treatment. Antivenom is necessary for treatment.

Venomous Snake Bites vs. Non-venomous Snake Bites

Some of the venomous snake bites are caused by rattlesnakes, cobra, coral snakes, copperhead, cottonmouth (water moccasin), and even some snakes found at zoos. It is important to observe the different characteristics of the snake that caused the bite to determine if the snake bite was venomous. Snakes found in and near the water are usually harmless with non-lethal bites. If one is unsure of the specie, treat these snake bites as serious. The following are the main characteristics of snakes with venomous and non-venomous bites, respectively:

Characteristics Venomous Non-venomous
Movement Cortina, side locomotion winding Semicortina curvature
Head Semi-triangular Oblongated
Body Rectangular Circular
Skin Rough Smooth
Eyes Vertical Round
Manner of Attack Nonconstrictor Constrictor
Bite Mark With fang marks Horseshoe shape


Signs and Symptoms of Snake Bites

Because of their smaller body size, children are at greater risks for serious complications or deaths. This is because the venom can spread faster and reach the critical organs at a quicker pace. The following are the signs and symptoms of snake bites:

Snake bites are characterized by intense pain and swelling
Snake bites are characterized by intense pain and swelling
  • Puncture (fang) marks that is usually bleeding and swelling
  • Intense pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Burning skin
  • Discoloration of the skin
  • Necrosis (tissue death)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Increased thirst
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Weakness
  • Quick pulse
  • Convulsion
  • Fainting

First Aid Treatment for Snake Bites

It is necessary to go to an emergency room as soon as possible. When given proper treatment at the soonest possible time, snake bites do not lead to serious effects. The following first aid tips are usually done in cases of snake bites:

  • Although there may be a lot of panic on the side of the casualty, it is important keep the casualty calm. Reassure them that snake bites can be effectively treated in the emergency room.
  • Limit movement of the bitten area. To help restrict movement of the area, create a loose splint. Keep the bitten area below heart flow. This will slow down the venom flow.
  • If pump suction devices are present, use them and follow the producer’s directions.
  • To avoid swelling of the bitten area, remove any constricting items, such as rings.
  • Check and monitor the vital signs of the casualty (pulse, rate of breathing, blood pressure and temperature).
  • If symptoms of shock begin to show, lay the person flat. Elevate the feet to about one foot and cover the casualty with a blanket.
  • If possible, and more importantly, if it can be done safely, bring the dead snake to the emergency room. This can hasten the process of finding the right antivenom.
    • Do not attempt to catch a live snake to avoid more injuries.
    • Do not hunt for the snake if it is already gone.
    • Practice vigilance when transporting a dead snake as it can still bite several hours after its death due to a reflex.
  • Do not place a tourniquet or any cold compress on the snake bite.
  • Do not attempt to such out the venom by mouth.
  • Do not give pain medications unless the doctor says so. Moreover, do not give anything by mouth.

To learn how to effectively apply first aid on snake bites and other animal bites, enroll in First Aid Courses.

Snake bites happen when a snake bites the skin. Snake bites are considered a medical emergency if the snake is venomous. The right antivenom is necessary for treatment of snake bites.

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