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Snakebites – Don’t Worry, Not All Are Poisonous

Snakebites, as the term suggests, refers to an injury caused by the bite of a snake. Snakebites often inflict pain, redness, and swelling in the affected area. If not treated promptly and adequately, snake bites can prove detrimental to one’s health. However, the majority of the snake species is non-venomous, and their bites are not life-threatening. Nevertheless, since it is difficult to differentiate between venomous and non-venomous species, it is always advisable to treat snake bites as a medical emergency.


All snakes bite only when threatened or surprised. Most snakes bite humans for defensive purposes. Bites of the following snakes can create life-threatening situations:

  1. Cobra
  2. Coral Snake
  3. Copperhead
  4. Rattlesnake
  5. Cottonmouth (water moccasin)
  6. Various snakes found in zoos

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the snake species and may include the following:

  1. Bleeding
  2. Blurred Vision
  3. Breathing Difficulty
  4. Convulsions
  5. Nausea and Vomiting
  6. Pain and swelling at the site of the bite
  7. Skin Color Changes
  8. Increased Thirst
  9. Numbness
  10. Low Blood Pressure
  11. Weakness
  12. Weak Pulse


While suffering from Snakebite, one should consult a General Physician.


The doctor will carry out the following diagnosis:

History: The doctor will review the symptoms and require information about the species of the snake, the number of bites, first aid techniques applied, and the victim’s past and present medication and allergies.

Physical examination:  This will include an examination of the bite site, neurological function, and muscle movement.

Laboratory Tests: This will involve conducting Blood tests, Urinalysis, and Wound X-Ray.

Treatment Modalities Available for Management of the Disorder

The treatment undertaken depends on whether the snake has injected venom in the victim’s body, and the type of snake responsible for the injury. Victims with Snakebites without envenomation will need local wound care, and in some cases, a tetanus immunization becomes essential. It takes 8-12 hours to assess the occurrence and development of toxicity within the victim’s body. In cases where envenomation has occurred, Antivenom, by far, is the most effective lifesaving measure, which provides relief from the toxic effects of the bite.

Known Complications

Snake venoms can lead to deadly situations, such as, neurological complications, cerebral hemorrhage, paralysis of muscles involved in swallowing and breathing, heart failure, shock, chronic ulceration at bite site, corneal ulceration, and scarring blindness. Children are more susceptible to death or such complications, because of their smaller body size.


While suffering from snakebite, one should undertake the following precautions:

  1. Do not panic and try to stay calm.
  2. Do not attempt hurting or killing the snake.
  3. Immobilize the arm or limb to stop the poison from spreading to other parts of the body. If possible, apply a splint to the affected area, but ensure that the splint is loose enough, and does not restrict blood flow.
  4. If possible, position the body of the victim so that the site of the bite is below the level of the heart.
  5. Remove jewelry, such as, rings, bracelets, or any other restricting items.
  6. Refrain from using a tourniquet, ice, cold compresses, and pain killers.
  7. Do not cut the wound or try to remove the venom, especially by mouth, knife, or razor.
  8. Wash the wound with soap and water, taking extreme care not to flush water on the wound.
  9. Seek medical help at the earliest.

Dietary and Physical Activity Requirements

The victim should restrict movement of the affected area, as it will help in preventing the poison from spreading throughout the body.  The victim should sit calmly for 20-30 minutes to allow the venom to localize at the bite site. The victim should also abstain from intake of caffeine or alcohol.

Prevention of the disorder from happening or recurring

One should always remember that snakes bite, only when threatened, surprised, or attacked. Hence, one should never attempt to provoke a snake. While traveling or hiking in a snake dominant area, one should wear long boots and trousers. While traveling through dark areas, one should carry a stick and a torch, as snakes evade light and vibration.

The risk to other family members

Snake bites are not contagious, and hence there is no risk to other family members.

Support and help gave by the caregiver

In the event of snakebite, it is imperative that the caregivers stay calm, and render moral support to the victim. The caregivers should provide prompt and adequate first aid to the victim to avoid dire consequences.

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