Ewww! The very mention of the word strikes fear in many people. The fear of snakes is called Ophidiophobia. From the Book of Genesis to modern films, snakes have always been a foe to humans.
Recent reports around the southern portion of the United States shows an increase in snake bites this year. There has been a 50- 70% increase in snake bites from March 2016 to March 2017 from Texas to North Carolina. The recent surge in snake bites is due in part to the mild winter allowed for a shorter hibernation period and more chances to mate.
So what does one do when a snake bite has occurred? Can you identify the snake?
Snake Bite 101
The first thing to do is to remain calm and move beyond the snake’s striking distance. Chances are the snake bite you because you startled him and he was defending himself. Snake generally do not purposely attack things more than two to three times their head size. That is because that is how far he can unhinge his jaw for food. Snakes in the US do not see humans as food, so the snake does not want to waste his precious venom on something that is not food.
Try to identify the snake. What colors or patterns did the snake have? If possible, try to remember the snake’s head shape. Most people focus on the size of the snake. Like fish tales, the size often changes the more the story is told. It helps if you can remember if the snake had round or elliptical eyes. But let’s be honest, when you or a loved one has been bitten by a snake, chances are you did not get close enough to see the eyes, the nostrils and the head shape. What is helpful for medical assistance is to know the colors and patterns of the snake in order to determine if it is venomous or not and what kind of antivenom needed. Treat all snake bites as though they are venomous.
Seek Medical Attention Immediately. The faster medical help arrives, the greater your chances of surviving and reduction of side effects.
Remove jewelry and tight clothing before swelling starts. Snake venom in the United States will either cause blood to clot, thus produces swelling or the blood will thin, thus causing swelling. Other snake venom will cause cellular and tissue damage and swelling or are neurotoxins. Venom is designed to work quickly and swelling occurs within minutes. A ring, a bracelet, or a belt can act as a tourniquet. Tourniquets are not to be used on a snake bite. The constriction of the blood supply near the snake bite greatly increases the chance of amputations.
Try to position yourself so that the snake bite is below your heart and reduce physical activity as much as possible. This slows the venom from spreading. It is important to also pay attention to the puncture wounds from the snake. Venom is modified salivary glands. The snake needs the venom for predigestion of the meal. Therefore a venomous snake will have to large puncture wounds from the fangs, while a nonpoisonous snake has many small teeth and kill their pray by constriction. Although nonpoisonous snakes bite does not contain toxins, their teeth are very sharp. People have reported it feels like several hypodermic needles sticking you all at once.
Clean the wound and have someone (if possible) record the victim’s vital signs. It is important to remove debris, etc from around the bite mark to reduce further infections. If the puncture wounds are bleeding, let the wound bleed. Bleeding can reduce the amount of venom to your body, which is a good thing. If there is a person with the snake bite victim, he/she should check temperature, pulse, breathing, and blood pressure if possible. Know how to check vital signs are important and is learned in Modules 5 and 6 in our book, Medical Science 101 for Homeschool Students. Know the proper way to take vital signs and the right things to say to medical professions are essential lifesaving skills.
Snake Bite NO! NO!
The initial reaction most people would have to a snake bite is PANIC. It is important to try to remain as calm as possible. Panic does not help the person, in fact anxiety can pump the venom through the bod quicker. Therefore here are some of the DO NOTs of a snake bite.
Do NOT overexert yourself. As previously mentioned, it pushes the venom through the body quicker.
Do NOT use a tourniquet. A tourniquet will concentrate the venom and increase chances of amputation.
Do NOT apply ice to the wound. Changing the temperature of the venom can cause damage to vascular tissue.
Do NOT attempt to suck the venom out of the wound. This is a myth from the movies. Remember venom is for predigestion of tissue, so sucking the venom out will do little for the victim, but can compromise the health of the rescuer.
Do NOT try to cut the venom out. Do not damage the vascular tissue.
Do NOT give medication of any kind to the victim and do not put anything in the victim’s mouth. Medicines can speed up the reaction. Anything in the mouth can restrict airflow, especially if the victim is going into shock.
Assignment: Research the snakes in your area. Learn to identify the poisonous snakes and where they are typically found. Teach yourself the general symptoms of a venomous snake bite from each snake.
Case Study on Snake Bites