A while back, we wrote a sensational piece listing Kenya’s deadliest snakes. But what would be the point if we don’t also write a piece on what to do in the event of an unfortunate encounter with these serpents. While you might impress your peers by identifying a snake and naming all its stats, that might be quickly forgotten if you do not know what to do in the event of an actual snakebite. So we went ahead and consulted, researched and compiled tips on what to do in case someone gets bitten.
It has always been stated and we are reminding you, most snakes are not venomous. How can you tell that? Well, from the bite marks. A non venomous snake bite will show a row of teeth while a venomous snake bite mark will show one or two fang marks..could be deep or not.
It might also help to know the kinds of venom that are out there.
Cytotoxic Venom causes destruction of blood vessels, cells and tissue. It is usually localized and quite painful, manifests severe swelling and blistering. Nausea and vomitting can also be present. Puff adder, vipers and Spitting Cobras have cytotoxic venom.
Haemotoxic Venom causes poisoning of the blood. It usually leads to blood thinning which is the reason why the victim with experience constant bleeding from the bite spot and other bodily openings. Puff adder, gabon adder and boomslang have haemotoxic venom.
Mytotoxic Venom causes muscle destruction. This venom will cause dryness of the throat, severe pain when moving muscles, drooping of the eyes, urine may turn a dark colour. Some rattlesnake and sea snakes have this venom.
Neurotoxic Venom attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms of such a bite would include difficulties in speech and breathing, convulsions, excessive sweating, dizziness even blurred vision. The king cobra, forest cobra and black mamba are examples of snakes with this venom.
It is important to note that a snake might have a concoction of venom so you cannot guess the exact type of snake from the symptoms alone.
So where do you start? First off, lets start with a list of donts.
Do not chase after the snake. If your attempts at stoning, hitting or yelling at the snake did not work, do not waste time running or searching for it. Not only might it lead to another bite, your victim is losing precious time. Deal with the victim first.
Do not attempt to suck the venom out of the bite. I know…it might have looked mighty heroic for the lady in “Snakes on a plane” to suck the venom out of the wound of the kid. But it is a highly discouraged practice because you might have a wound or opening in your mouth.
Do not attempt to make a cut on the bite. Not even with an ear ring dipped in olive oil. It is a first aid no no.
Do not apply a tourniquet. For those of us from the village, a tourniquet is a constricting material that prevents the flow of blood to certain parts of the body.
Do not apply Ice. it might seem like a sensible thing to do so as to reduce the swelling but it really isnt. Pouring water on the bite is highly discouraged as well.
Do not give alcohol or caffeinated drinks. no matter how much you friend might beg you for a swig of alcohol to numb the pain or as his final death wish, since he is convinced he is dying, do not oblige. Alcohol is known to speed up the absorption of venom.
So what are you supposed to do?
First off, remain calm. It might sound impossible, given the circumstances. But panic leads to increased blood circulation which means that the venom will spread faster.
Protect the victim from further snake attacks. Move the victim away from the snake and make sure that there is no repetition of an attack.
Call for help. Time is of the essence when it comes to a snake bite. So as you perform first aid, make sure that help is on the way to get the victim to hospital as soon as possible.
Ensure that the site of the bite is below the heart to decrease the rate at which the venom reaches the heart.
Remove any constrictions near the bite. Any jewellery, shoes or clothes on the bite should be removed before any swelling manifests.
Keep the victim as still as possible. It is important to make sure there is very little movement of the affected part. You could apply a splint which will ensure very little movement but remember that the splint should not be tight.
Wrap a bandage 2-4 inches away from the bite. It should not be too tight as to restrict blood flow which would result in tissue death.
It might also be helpful to remember that even if you managed to kill the snake, handle it with care. Snakes are known to have reflexes an hour after death so even in the after life, those vengeful serpents might just bite you.
A snakebite does not mean a death sentence. With immediate response and proper first aid, fatalities resulting from snake bites can be greatly reduced.