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Home First Aid - Members Input



1) Snake venom causes symptoms which differ greatly from species to species :

    a) ADDERS have a CYTOTOXIC venom.  

         • This causes localised damage at the "site of the bite" to cells and tissue.

            • Severe pain and swelling at the "site of the bite"

            • Death due to oligaemic shock.

        b) COBRAS and MAMBAS (and BEES) have a NEUROTOXIC venom.

            • This causes paralysis of systemic neuro-muscular system.

            • Little reaction at the site of the bite.

            • Causes muscle weakness and dizziness.

                • Death occurs due to respiratory paralysis.

       c) BOOMSLANGS have HAEMOTOXIC venom.

             • This causes a bleeding disorder resulting in an inability of the blood to clot.

             • Causes widespread bleeding from nose, eyes and mouth.

             • Causes organ failure due to micro-thrombosis formation.

             • Death occurs due to disseminated intravascular coagulation.


2) Treatment and Management of Snakebite is based on SYMPTOMS of the bite :

a) If possible, try to identify the snake. Observe the patient in terms of the above SYMPTOMS.

b) If no effects emerge after a few minutes of observation then either the bite is from a non-toxic species or the snake was not able to inject venom being old, or had no time to inject venom or did not have a sufficient bite.

SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE ANYWAY as other complications could be caused by the bite itself.

c) Neurotoxic (Cobra or Mamba) venoms have little or no effect at the site of the bite but symptoms will soon become evident of salivation, sweating, lapsing into unconsciousness, loss of blood pressure / pulse and breathing difficulties followed by death unless C.P.R is administered until reaching emergency services. Immobilise the limb and restrict blood and especially lymphatic fluid flow between the bite and the heart or the rest of the body.

d) Cytotoxic (Adder) venoms cause immediate pain and swelling at the site of the bite but allow hours of time to get the patient to emergency services. Immobilise the limb but do not restrict blood or lymphatic fluid flow around the site of the bite.

e) These dramatic differences need to be understood by the person managing the situation and vehicles need to be brought to the victim and the victim should not be expected to reach the vehicles as this causes further stress and heightened circulation which could help spread the poison through the system. ALL ASSISTANCE IS URGENTLY NEEDED.

f) ABOVE ALL, ---- DON’T PANIC ! ! !

g) Recent research has indicated that venom travels through the lymphatic system and not necessarily through the blood stream. This means that instead of applying a dangerous tourniquet to stop blood flow, an elasticised bandage should be wrapped around the limb to restrict lymph fluid flow and the patient brought to medical care as soon as possible. An emergency measure could be to tear a tee shirt into strips or use the elasticity of socks etc.

h) Only a trained medical person should give injections and a lay person could cause more problems if the victim has a sensitivity to antivenom serum and intravenous injections are really a job for the trained. A knowledge of C.P.R. is never lost and could save the life of a victim who loses the ability to breathe or has a loss of pulse.

i) Immobilise the affected limb, get a vehicle to the victim and get the victim to medical help fast.

j) The above applies to Modderfontein walks etc. and more dramatic measures will have to be applied to cases occurring further away from easily reachable medical facilities. Treatment and management have to be intensified and further training assimilated for leaders in extended circumstances.

k) NEVER attempt to suck out the venom from a bite or cut a bite site to cause bleeding or apply condese crystals or other gunk to bites. Rather administer a suitable anti histamine and get the victim to medical care.

l) NEVER try to kill a snake to take to hospital for identification :

FIRSTLY, medical personnel are not snake experts and would not know what species they are looking at. They will treat the symptoms presented.

SECONDLY, the person looking for the snake is likely to be bitten as well

so we would likely have TWO victims to treat.

THIRDLY, medical personnel are only human and probably as scared of snakes as you are. The hospital would probably rapidly empty of personnel leaving nobody to treat the victim.

As in most circumstances, there is no substitute for good old PLAIN COMMON SENSE.

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