How to manage snake bites

Snake bites are considered as a medical emergency. It is important to note that snakes bite either to catch prey or as self-defense. If treatment is delayed after a bite, a venomous bite can lead to serious injury or even death.

The various species of snakes have different forms of venom. Generally, the main categories of venom include:

  • Cytotoxins – this type of venom causes swelling and tissue damage at the bite site
  • Neurotoxins – causes paralysis or other form of impairment to the nervous system
  • Haemorrhagins – disrupts the blood vessels
    snake-bites

    The indications that stem from venomous snake bites is based on the type of snake involved.

  • Myotoxins – causes the breakdown of the muscles
  • Anti-clotting agents – prevents the blood from clotting normally

What are the indications?

The indications that stem from venomous snake bites is based on the type of snake involved. Some of the usual reactions include:

  • 2 puncture wounds at the bite site
  • Throbbing, sharp pain at the site of the bite.
  • Swelling, redness and damaged tissue at the bite site
  • Blurred vision
  • Low blood pressure and shock
  • Erratic blood clotting and bleeding
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Increased production of saliva
  • Numbness of the face or limbs

Management of snake bites

The initial step is to seek medical attention right away. You should provide appropriate first aid care:

  • Get rid of any jewelry or watches since these can cut into the skin if swelling occurs.
  • Position the bite site below the level of the heart to slow down the spread of venom through the bloodstream
  • Encourage the individual to stay still and calm. Remember that moving around will allow the venom to spread faster.
  • Cover the bite site using a clean, loose-fitting, dry bandage.

Always bear in mind that the main objective is to administer the right antivenom right away. The color, size and shape of the snake are useful in determining the ideal treatment.

What to expect after treatment?

In most cases, it might be required to stay in a healthcare facility for up to 24 hours to monitor the blood pressure and overall health. If there is a drop in the blood pressure, intravenous fluids might be required. A blood transfusion might be needed if there is significant loss of blood.

Monitoring is required since some individuals might end up with a severe allergic reaction after receiving the antivenom.

The period of full recovery depends on the type of snake bite. The pain and swelling are the usual lingering effects in the site where the bite occurred.

Disclaimer / More Information

The information posted on this page on snake bites is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize the indications and properly care for snake bites, register for first aid training at one of our training centers located throughout Canada. The training centers are in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Kelowna, Saskatoon, Victoria, Surrey, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax.

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