Skip to Content

Snake bite

Find information and FAQ's not related to the parks, like Health & Safety, 4x4 etc.

Moderator: lion queen

User avatar
Meandering Mouse
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Posts: 15087
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: meandering between senility and menopause

Snake bite

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Thu Dec 24, 2009 6:45 am

In view of a recent incident, I thought that I would like to know more about what to do if bitten by a snake.

I remember, many years ago, there was talk of keeping as calm as possible.. torneque's, cutting.. sucking out poison, all sorts off stuff. I am now told that this is not so, out of date and possibly even dangerous.

Could any of our more experienced mites help here? It would also be good to know what we could include in our first aid kit that might not normally be there.
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

User avatar
Imberbe
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 14425
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Location: Pretoria, RSA

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby Imberbe » Thu Dec 24, 2009 10:44 am

None of the above should be applied ... no cutting, shocking, sucking, tourniquet .... :naughty:

A quick wash of the bite site with simple water can be done, to remove excess venom.

The current medical advise is to apply a pressure bandage. This should NOT BE CONFUSED WITH A TOURNIQUET!!!

Step 1

Get the patient out of danger, and make sure no one else get bitten. Do not try and capture the snake, since we don't need a second victim. A positive identification can be handy later on.

Step 2

Calm the patient down, ensuring that the patient is as calm and passive as possible. Talk to the person, calming him, assuring him. Shock is a deadly companion. The patient should not be active, as this aids the spread of the venom. If the patient is moved eventually, it is better that the patient be carried or driven if possible.

Step 3

This step should not be used in the case of cytotoxic venom, such as the adders species, which destroy flesh.

Apply a pressure bandage.

Any bandage or even long piece of cloth such as a torn shirt will do. The body part which has been bitten (say the arm) is taken and a bandage is applied in such a way that is restricts the blood flow.

The arms is taken and pressure is applied by hand on the bite site. The bandage is then applied from the bite site, towards the heart, for the length of the arm. It is very important that the blood flow should not be cut off!!! The pulse and blood flow should be checked and monitored, i.e. by applying pressure on the nails and checking that blood returns as soon as the pressure is lifted.

The goal of this exercise is to slow down the spread of the venom, which is mainly transported through the lymph system. The lymph system has no anti-bodies which can attack the venom, while the blood has. Venom transported by the blood is a lot less capable of damage because of this.

Step 4

Incapacitate the body part by applying a splint or other appropriate form of binding. This is to prevent movement, which will aid the spread of venom.

Step 5

Again, manage shock, by calming the patient down, or keeping him warm or cold, as is appropriate in the situation. Keep on speaking to the person, don't tell horror stories and don't allow other to do it. Rather give the facts, that snake bite is treatable, there is enough time, etc.

Step 6

Get the patient to medical help. Again, if at all possible the patient should not move on his own power. If he must, he must walk, not run.


Tourniquet

This causes severe damage by cutting off all blood flow to an appendage, and should be avoided. This is only used in the most sever cases, if death is the only other possibility. An example would be a severe bite by a black mamba, somewhere where no medical help is available. If a tourniquet is applied, it should be loosened every now and then to prevent the tissues from dying due to lack of oxygen.
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.

User avatar
Meandering Mouse
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Posts: 15087
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: meandering between senility and menopause

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Thu Dec 24, 2009 12:59 pm

Imberbe, ok, if I understand, if it is an adder of sorts, then do not apply a pressure bandage, just keep calm, the affected area immobile as possible and seek help. In all other cases, apply pressure bandage.

Given that many bites are from puff adders, this is important advice.

Only time to consider tornequet is in case of a black mamba.

Another question. Is there anyway of knowing from the "tooth print" of the bite what kind of snake it might be?

Another question, are certain snakes more active at certain times of the day?
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

User avatar
Imberbe
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 14425
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Location: Pretoria, RSA

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby Imberbe » Thu Dec 24, 2009 1:55 pm

Yes, with the cytotoxic snakes, you do not apply the bandage, but do the rest.

Yes, a tourniquet is a last ditch desperate option, because you know it is in itself going to cause damage. It should only be considered if you know that it is a life or death situation ... which in 98% of snake bites, it is not. Black mamba and Cape cobra seem to be the two prime candidates for a tourniquet. Also remember that it is a well known fact that snakes at times give a "dry bite" which means that they bite, without injecting venom. A tourniquet should be loosened every 15 minutes or so for a few seconds.

No, you cannot tell from a bite mark which snake bit you. Even if it was technically possible, it is not something that can be studied or practically applied.

Yes, snakes do differ in the period that they are active. Remember that snakes are endothermic, meaning that they get their heat from the environment, thus the sun. Most snakes are most active during the warm times of the day, since then they have lots of energy.

There are exceptions ... some snakes are nocturnal, and will be more active at night.
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit www.sanparkshr.org


One positive deed is worth more than a thousand critical words.

User avatar
giraffee
Posts: 150
Joined: Sun Apr 15, 2007 4:44 pm
Location: Pretoria South Africa

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby giraffee » Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:09 pm

MM to add something to the meds bag, I’m a big believer in Vitamin C.
Haven’t considered injections (for animals) but will ask my vet, since he’s recently gone big into alternatives and homeopathics 8) .
We always have handy Vit C tabs and a large tub Epson’s salt (engelse sout) at the sea.

Kobie Kruger wrote about Vitamin C when her husband and the vet were bitten during game capturing by an unknown snake, “purplish” if I remember correct. And also a black woman bitten by something poisonous. Kobie’s husband and the woman recovered fast. I’ve not used Vit C for snake bite, but believe Kobie and dr Klenner.

This is exellent info. Dr Klenner and this for interestingness. :lol:

Oh and the Epson’s salt is for stingray stings. Off topic but hopefully it could help somebody someday…
I think most sea things have a protein poison, so this should work for blue bottles too??
My SO got a really bad sting from a stingray while we were in the bundu at the Transkei wild coast. I’ve long ago read in the JLB Smith about as hot as possible water and Epson’s salts to kill the venom and :pray: it worked. Thank goodness I had Epson’s in the bag! SO said the pain was incredible and then it was gone.
Thereafter without any infection, it took the wound six months to heal.
Last edited by giraffee on Thu Dec 31, 2009 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
Of all the things I'd been skeptical about, I didn't feel skeptical about this: the wilderness had a clarity that included me. ~Cheryl Strayed

Mgulube
Posts: 125
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 10:46 am
Location: Boabab country

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby Mgulube » Thu Dec 31, 2009 11:31 am

We have a couple of Vit C/ Ascorbic acid ampules and syringes in the fridge at home. We keep it handy for possible snake bites for the dogs. It is my honest opinion that the use of ascorbic acid will not help for snake bite, but the chances of a dog surviving a bite up here (closest vet is 91km) are slim, so we are willing to try anything.
Sometimes the perfect gift is a cheery smile

User avatar
DuneRichard
Posts: 32
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2010 2:30 pm
Location: Kalahari

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby DuneRichard » Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:43 pm

Okay, so there are 200-page books written on snake bites and the relative first aid - but here are the golden rules of any bite or sting, they are easy to remember, and applicable to any snake, spider, scorpion, wasp, or any other nasty in this category.

1) Remain calm.
2) Stay alert.
3) Life over Limb.

1) Remain calm.
This accounts for you and the patient,
A calm mind can sort things out easier than when you are all hyped up. and a calm body means a slower heart rate so the venom doesn't spread as quickly as it would if the patient was running around squealing.

2) Stay Alert.
Keep your eyes open for symptoms, and try note them in the order that they happen.
Also try and stay alert so that if the snake is around, you can remember as much detail of it as possible.

3) Life over Limb.
It's common knowledge that a torniquet is a bad idea for a snake bite, however, if you are bitten out in the middle of nowhere, and you may not get to a hospital in time, say screw the leg, and save your life. Use a torniquet, even if it means you have your leg amputated, you still at least stay alive.
Ex Africa semper aliquid novi
Always something new out of Africa - Pliny the Elder

Thanatosis emoticon - :shock:

FGASA Level 1 Guide
17 years of life in the magical Kalahari and LOVING IT!

User avatar
AjayB
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 431
Joined: Sat Apr 25, 2009 7:27 pm
Location: Cape Town

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby AjayB » Sat Jan 16, 2010 4:54 pm

Sage words from Imberbe and Dune Richard.

I have never had to deal with a live situation but have studied the theory for almost 25 years and have had a few close encounters and listened to many stories and accounts.

1---First and most important thing is to ID the snake. It could be VITAL information for the doctors by the time you get there.I cant stress this enough.You will in all likelyhood have a very short window of opportunity to do this in. Even if it means going after it throwing stones into the scrub where you think it is hiding to get another look at it.Obviously with extreme caution. Wear sunglasses if you have them too or if you dont have some then turn your head if you see movement and freeze.Get the ID though if at all possible. Polyvalent antivenom is not as effective. Even just the colour can help.

Sometimes it is possible to guess what grouping of snake you are dealing with from the bite which helps because fangs are different. Puffie is usually a messy bite for example.

And the only real haemotoxic threat is the boomslang and the vast majority of boomslang bites are from snakes that are being handled. And haemotoxins are much slower acting anyway. You have got time compared to neurotoxins. But none of this matters in real time.

2--Get to the closest doctor or hospital. Dont wait around and discuss stuff. Move.Put your car lights and hazards on when you get to it and drive like the wind. Even pressure bandages dont do much. Time is your enemy. Dont waste it .Dont panic but just be super efficient and get the victim out ASAP.

Even if its a black mamba or a brute cobra, there is always hope.It might not be looking too rosy but people do survive as has been proven. People have also been stone dead in under 20 minutes but then and there one will never be able to tell wether its dry-bite or only one fang bite or not.

Just my 2 cents

User avatar
DuneRichard
Posts: 32
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2010 2:30 pm
Location: Kalahari

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby DuneRichard » Sat Jan 16, 2010 5:18 pm

AjayB, excellent point - Time is really a vital factor, and regrettably one that I missed... I'd call that

Golden Rule #4. DO NOT WASTE ANY TIME! 8)

But also remember that there is a difference between wasting time and spending time. :rtm:

Rather gather the raw details first, then charge off to hospital.
Information that could save a life might well be forgotten in the zeal of panic.

If you do not take the time to make sure it was a young cobra that bit you or your patient, and you get to the hospital and say it was a boomlang, they will administer heamotoxic antivenom and kill you/your patient even faster... :naughty:
Ex Africa semper aliquid novi
Always something new out of Africa - Pliny the Elder

Thanatosis emoticon - :shock:

FGASA Level 1 Guide
17 years of life in the magical Kalahari and LOVING IT!

User avatar
Batmad
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 2729
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:05 pm
Location: Looking for Bats...

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby Batmad » Sun Apr 11, 2010 5:58 pm

Meandering Mouse wrote:In view of a recent incident, I thought that I would like to know more about what to do if bitten by a snake.

I remember, many years ago, there was talk of keeping as calm as possible.. torneque's, cutting.. sucking out poison, all sorts off stuff. I am now told that this is not so, out of date and possibly even dangerous.

Could any of our more experienced mites help here? It would also be good to know what we could include in our first aid kit that might not normally be there.



The only Snake bites you torneque is Cape Cobra and Black Mamba 8)
Avid birder, wildlife enthusiast and photographer with a special interest in Bats and Birds

2014 Birding Big Year- A 365 Day quest for 800 Species of Southern African Birds

johannb
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:04 pm
Location: Vanderbijlpark

Re: Snake bite

Unread postby johannb » Mon Aug 02, 2010 1:37 pm

Imberbe wrote:None of the above should be applied ... no cutting, shocking, sucking, tourniquet .... :naughty:

A quick wash of the bite site with simple water can be done, to remove excess venom.

The current medical advise is to apply a pressure bandage. This should NOT BE CONFUSED WITH A TOURNIQUET!!!

Step 1

Get the patient out of danger, and make sure no one else get bitten. Do not try and capture the snake, since we don't need a second victim. A positive identification can be handy later on.

Step 2

Calm the patient down, ensuring that the patient is as calm and passive as possible. Talk to the person, calming him, assuring him. Shock is a deadly companion. The patient should not be active, as this aids the spread of the venom. If the patient is moved eventually, it is better that the patient be carried or driven if possible.

Step 3

This step should not be used in the case of cytotoxic venom, such as the adders species, which destroy flesh.

Apply a pressure bandage.

Any bandage or even long piece of cloth such as a torn shirt will do. The body part which has been bitten (say the arm) is taken and a bandage is applied in such a way that is restricts the blood flow.

The arms is taken and pressure is applied by hand on the bite site. The bandage is then applied from the bite site, towards the heart, for the length of the arm. It is very important that the blood flow should not be cut off!!! The pulse and blood flow should be checked and monitored, i.e. by applying pressure on the nails and checking that blood returns as soon as the pressure is lifted.

The goal of this exercise is to slow down the spread of the venom, which is mainly transported through the lymph system. The lymph system has no anti-bodies which can attack the venom, while the blood has. Venom transported by the blood is a lot less capable of damage because of this.

Step 4

Incapacitate the body part by applying a splint or other appropriate form of binding. This is to prevent movement, which will aid the spread of venom.

Step 5

Again, manage shock, by calming the patient down, or keeping him warm or cold, as is appropriate in the situation. Keep on speaking to the person, don't tell horror stories and don't allow other to do it. Rather give the facts, that snake bite is treatable, there is enough time, etc.

Step 6

Get the patient to medical help. Again, if at all possible the patient should not move on his own power. If he must, he must walk, not run.


Tourniquet

This causes severe damage by cutting off all blood flow to an appendage, and should be avoided. This is only used in the most sever cases, if death is the only other possibility. An example would be a severe bite by a black mamba, somewhere where no medical help is available. If a tourniquet is applied, it should be loosened every now and then to prevent the tissues from dying due to lack of oxygen.


Presure bandages are replaced with stretch bandages, now.
Johann Blignaut
johann.conco@gmail.com
079 887 3291


Return to “Advice needed (Not Park Specific) ”