SNAKE BITE FIRST AID

SNAKE BITE FIRST AID management before hospitalization includes a brief background of snake bite and highlights the important dos and don’ts with regards to first aid management. Among the approximately 2500 known species of snakes, only 15% are considered venomous and thus dangerous to humans which means a majority of these snake bites are due to non venomous snakes. Local information about the types of snakes present in a specific area and identification of the snake can be useful. However, capturing of the culprit snake in itself should not be a priority as polyvalent Anti-snake Venoms (ASV) will cover against the venom.

The species responsible for causing the most snake bite in South Asia are

                                                                                                                                                                        

  • The Indian cobra
  • common krait
  • Russell’s viper
  • Saw-scaled viper

The snake venom can be a neurotoxin or hemotoxin. It may also be a cytolytic venom depending upon the snake type/ specie. It can even be a combination of the above.

Bites by some snakes such as vipers can be extremely painful with rapid swelling and inflammation within minutes of the bite. Other bites can have local erythema , burning sensation or tingling sensation which is not entirely painful.

The hemotoxic effects of the venom can affect the coagulation system directly leading to severe blood loss in the form of bleeding from nose (epistaxis), gums, hematemesis and into the skin with appearance of purpuric spots and patches. In severe cases bleeding may occur within the internal organs such as the brain and intestine.

Neurological manifestations may also occur with visual and speech deficits. Acute renal failure can also ensue secondary to muscle break down , myoglobinuria and hemoglobinuria.

SNAKE BITE FIRST AID RESPONSE

Shifting the patient to a nearby health facility safely should be the first priority. Sucking the wound to supposedly lessen the burden of the venom, applying a tourniquet , exposing the wound to fire or applying ice directly are all measures that can be counterproductive and in reality can do more harm than benefit.

Here is what you should do if you are confronted with a Snake bite and its first aid management before hospitalisation

  • Isolate the patient / affected individual from the danger area to avoid further bite threat.
  • Don’t attempt to kill or capture the snake unless you are or have besides you an experienced person who knows how to handle snakes
  • Reassure the patient citing the fact that most bites are not venomous and a very high percentage of these bites are actually dry bites where no poison is transmitted at all. Panic at such a stage will hinder further efforts so a degree of calm in both first aid provider and the patient will help in  smooth transition to a healthcare facility.
  • The area should be cleaned with water and antiseptic if available and exaggerated movements should be avoided with regards to the limb or area which got bitten.
  • Pressure immobilization technique should be applied. It has two objective based components. First is to wrap the affected limb with elastic clothing in such a way that blood circulation is intact but lymphatic drainage at the site is impeded. This is especially useful in case the venom is a neurotoxin. This is the pressure part. The immobilization part is to prevent the peripheral skeletal muscles having a pumping action on the blood pooled there thus disseminating the toxin even more.
  • No medication should be administered especially injectable medication (Intramuscular / intravenous) on the way to the hospital or healthcare facility.