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Snake Bites
Advice and Information

'Even if you've never seen one, the snake embodies everything we fear' Jim Morrison



Dangerous Animals

Venomous Snakes

There are over 2,700 species of snake in the world of which around 725 are venomous, though only 250 stock a powerful enough toxin to kill a human with one bite.
Bites from such reptiles are by far the most prolific cause of human death by dangerous animals in the world, with estimates by experts of around 125,000 a year.

Few travellers, however, are likely to fall victim to snake bites. It is the local population who live and work in close proximity with these critters - and with little protection - that suffer most.
Like most animals, they will only attack if threatened or surprised. They'd rather slither away. Let them go! Enjoy the sight of them. Don't imagine you're Indy Jones!



Avoiding bites

• never aggravate a dangerous animal in any way or try and provoke it into an attack. This may seem ridiculous, but most bites in the USA are a result of such moronic behaviour. If you see a grizzly bear do you feel you have to throw a rock at it?

• do not try to capture a snake unless you are an experienced herpetologist. Even then three people are really required to deal with it. One person to get bitten by accident, one to stay with the victim, and one to go for help!

• when out walking in snake zones, look down and at the the areas immediately either side of where you will be treading.
If you wish to travel at night then a torch is essential for your safety as many of these beasts are nocturnal hunters.

• wear substantial socks and boots when wild walking.

• do not lift up large stones or fallen vegetative matter unless absolutely necessary and if you must, proceed with extreme caution. These are favoured places for animals of the biting persuasion.

• if a snake is within striking distance and you are lucky enough to notice it - don't panic! Stay absolutely still. These animals are very quick and may strike in defence if you make a sudden movement. Move back veeery sloooowly.



Severe pain, swelling, discoloration around the bites; later comes fluid build-up, secondary infection, dead tissue, extreme skin and neural sensitivity. This may continue for several days.

If the venom contains neurotoxins the victim may experience nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, slurred speech, and difficulty in breathing.




n.b. In some countries, such as Australia, wounds should not be cleaned unless the animal has been firmly identified. Medical facilities have a venom detection kit that requires samples from the skin surrounding the bites.

1) Standard and best treatment:
- a high proportion of bites do not result in any venom entering the body, so don't panic.
- the victim should be calmed and lie down to retard the spread of venom.
-allow the bite to bleed freely for 30 seconds.
- quickly wrap a light bandage above and below the wound (if you can't get two fingers under the bandage, it's too tight).
- remove any jewellery or tight fitting clothing.
- Immobilize/splint the bitten limb and keep it at heart level (gravity-neutral) if possible. Too high causes venom to travel to the heart, too low causes more swelling.
- Do not drink alcohol, or take any medicine or food.
- Get victim gently to medical facilities, inside three hours if possible. Inform them in advance of the creature's identity if possible.

2) Cold pack:
- quickly wrap a light bandage above and below the bites (if you can't get two fingers under the bandage, it's too tight).
- place a cold pack (frozen peas etc) over the wound. This will reduce the pain, reduce swelling and slow the travel of venom. It may also cause permanent tissue damage - frostbite - if left on too long.
- follow the last 3 steps of #1.

3) Cut and suck - little chance of success:
If the hospital is well over 3 hours away and the snake was a deadly one, some believe it may be acceptable to cut and suck or suction bites, but this is not normally recommended because:
a) it's dangerous to perform in a panicky situation
b) the cut may do more damage than the original punctures - especially if secondary infection kicks in.
c) increased blood flow may accelerate the flow of venom too.

To do it properly:
- quickly wrap a light bandage above and below the wound (if you can't get two fingers under the bandage, it's too tight).
-clean the area with antiseptic and reclean every few minutes.
- make cuts with a short, sharp blade near the bite site and start to suck/suction (a device available in some snakebite kits). The venom is tasteless and harmless in the mouth. 15 minutes max.
- follow the last 3 steps of #1.

4) Electroshock - little chance of success:
A newish idea. The theory is that an electric shock disrupts the venom cells, reducing the impact of the toxins. The current should be DC (i.e. not from a wall socket), around 100k voltage at .1 or .2 milliamps. A small stun gun is sold for this purpose in USA.
quickly wrap a light bandage above and below the bites (if you can't get two fingers under the bandage, it's too tight).
hit the bite zone with a one second shock, 5 or 6 times in a circle.
as the swelling moves out from the bite, so the shocks must follow the venom spread, firing a set every 10 or 15 minutes for an hour.
follow the last 3 steps of #1.



The venom is a specialized form of saliva and its primary purpose is to immobilise or kill the prey - sometimes also to begin digesting the meal before consumption.
The secondary purpose is as a defence. Different species will vary in their level of aggression when provoked.



The level of toxicity of any particular venom is in all practicality irrelevant as the amount injected makes the difference. This will depend on the size of venom sacks, the amount they contain if the animal has bitten something else recently, and the amount the creature decides or manages to inject.
The location of the bite will also influence the speed of the effect, depending on the proximity of the bite to main veins and arteries through which the venom travels to vital organs.


Snake statistics

The countries where most people die from snake bites are India and Sri Lanka with around 20,000 fatalities annually in India alone.
In the USA the state with most snake bites is Arizona.
Australia hosts nine of the world's top ten deadly snakes but averages only one fatal bite a year.

Some venom can kill a strong male in a couple of hours, but it more commonly takes up to two days.
Recovery, even when not fatal, can be long and incomplete.



The world's most deadly snakes

Australia: (1) Inland Taipan (the world's most toxic snake but fortunately rare), (2) Eastern Brown (the country's biggest killer), (4) Taipan, (5) Tiger, Black, Sea.

SE Asia: (3) Malayan Krait, a night mover.

USA: Water and Mexican Moccasins, Cottonmouth and Copperhead Rattlers, Coral.

India: Russel's Viper, Indian Cobra.

Africa: Egyptian Cobra, Puff Adder and Saw Scaled Viper.

Central/South America (e.g.Costa Rica): Fer-de-Lance


Lion Attacks | Crocodile and Alligator Attacks | Scorpion Stings | Bear Attacks


Bee and Wasp Stings | Blue-Ringed Octopus and Stonefish


Shark Attacks | Jellyfish Stings


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