Bitten by a snake … now what?

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Various snake-related incidents were reported in South Africa during the past few months. Some snake attacks are life-threatening, but others can be treated.

In South Africa, we have a few venomous native snakes. The most common include the Adder and Cobra species.

It is important to to know what to do when bitten by a snake and what you can do to protect yourself and your family. Staying calm and getting to a medical facility as quickly as possible will give you the best chance of surviving a venomous snakebite.

According to Rentokil, experts in pest control, treatment for snakebite is defined according to whether the venom is cytotoxic, haemotoxic or neurotoxic. It is therefore very important to receive the correct treatment if a snake bites you. Cytotoxicity describes the quality of being toxic to cells, haemotoxicity relates to a substance, especially one produced by a bacterium, that destroys red blood cells, while neurotoxicity affects the nervous system.

The venom from adders and vipers is cytotoxic. There are generally two puncture marks at the site of the bite, which causes pain, swelling, dizziness and nausea.

The venom from mambas and cobras is neurotoxic. Once again, there are two puncture wounds at the site of the bite. The bite feels more like a sting and there is little or no brushing. Symptoms include feeling confused, dizziness, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and breathing.

The venom from boomslang and vine snakes is haemotoxic. Sometimes, but not always, puncture wounds can be seen at site of the bite. The bite is generally not very painful but within one hour copious bleeding occurs. The symptoms include a severe headache, nausea and vomiting. If venom is spat in to a person’s eyes use water or milk to flush out the eye.

Important notes to take:

• Call for help immediately

• Try to identify the snake by its colour and size

• Get the victim under shade

• Keep the victim calm and still

• Clean and dress the wound, being careful not to apply pressure and cause bruising

• Apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary

• Get the victim to a hospital quickly

• Use soapy water round the bite wound

• Apply ice to the wound

• Never cut into the bite site. Snake experts warn that doing this may cause further damage and increase the risk of infection

The Netcare Krugersdorp Hospital is able to assist patients with snakebites.

The News could not get any feedback from Netcare Pinehaven.

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