Snake bites – sometimes fatal, always frightening
Snakes! Creatures revered by some and abhorred by many. Abhorred because of the mistaken notion that snakes bite just for kicks and all snake bites are lethal.
Here’s something very few people know. A bite from a poisonous snake doesn't always contain venom. In about 25 percent of all pit viper bites there is no venom injected. And about 50 percent of cobra and coral snake bites don’t result in venom poisoning. The not-so-good news is that snake venom can affect every major organ system in the body, either directly or indirectly.
The venom of rattlesnakes and other pit vipers is harmful to the tissue around the area of the bite, prevents blood from clotting, produces changes in blood cells, and damages blood vessels. These changes are fatal in the sense that they can lead to internal bleeding, and heart, respiratory, and kidney failure.
Though the venom of coral snakes causes little damage to the tissue around the bite, it does affect the nervous system activity.
The symptoms of pit viper poisoning can vary to a great extent depending on the species and size of the snake, the quantity and toxicity of the venom injected, the location of the bite, and the victim’s age and build.
Bites by copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths cause pain soon after the venom is injected, followed by swelling within ten minutes. These symptoms take place within 20 to 30 minutes and the pain can range from mild to severe.
A poisonous bite is usually diagnosed after observing the fang marks, pain, swelling, redness, and tingling and numbness in the fingers or toes or around the mouth, along with other symptoms.
Bites from some types of rattlesnakes leave a metallic or rubbery taste in the mouth.
Snake bites, if untreated, can result in progressive swelling which can affect the entire arm or leg within a few hours. Symptoms include general weakness; chills; fever; a rapid, weak heartbeat; sweating; faintness; nausea; and vomiting.
Poisonous snake bites require immediate attention. Before the treatment, the doctor or nurse must know whether the snake was poisonous and whether venom was injected. If no venom was injected, thorough cleaning and a tetanus booster are all that are needed.
An important part of treatment for most bites is venom antidote (antivenom), which neutralizes the venom’s poisonous effects and which is given intravenously. A tetanus booster is also given and occasionally antibiotics are needed.
Share this Article with your Friends