HEALTH RISKS OF SNAKE BITES

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Snakes are dangerous reptiles. They reside in every continent of the world except Antarctica, and snake bites are becoming more common today. It was a common belief that snakes, being wild animals, live in forests and bushy areas. However, snakes now cohabit with people due to deforestation and urbanization. Due to this, it is important to call the snake removal professionals like Precise Exterminating Service if you find snakes on your property. 

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The greatest challenge of having these reptiles as neighbors is that they bite! Unlike other animals, snakes inject their venom into victims through their bites. However, contrary to common beliefs, not all snake bites are poisonous. 

Types of Snake Bite

  • Venomous
  • Non-venomous

Venomous Snake Bites

Venomous snake bites are very dangerous, and though venomous snakes are the minority of the snake population, their effect is infamous in the animal kingdom. Various species of snakes have varying types of venom. These include:

  1. Neurotoxins: These cause nervous signs like paralysis, hallucination, brain damage, and loss of motor function. 
  2. Cytotoxins: This venom type affects cells and tissues. It causes generalized necrosis and tissue damage. After a snake bite, there is swelling, bruising, and pain around the bite site.
  3. Mycotoxins: This toxin affects the muscles and causes all the cardinal signs of inflammation, including swelling, redness, heat, pain, and loss of muscle function.
  4. Anti-clotting agents: This venom type causes profuse bleeding due to the release of some anti-clotting agents that prevent clotting of blood and wound healing.
  5. Hemorrhaging: These cause extravasation of blood from blood vessels, rupture of the vessels, and bleeding from various organs, leading to multiple organ failure.

Non-Venomous Snake Bites

Most snakes are non-venomous, meaning that they do not inject toxins or venom into their victim through bites. However, there are also dry bites. These occur when a venomous snake bites a victim without venom. Often, this happens when the snake has eaten and is full, during mating season when the snake does not want to waste its venom, and during breeding, the female wants to warn you of her litter.

Identifying Snake Bites

To be safe, treat all snake bites as poisonous and emergencies, do not gamble with a victim’s life or health. It is important to know what to do if you’ve been bitten and recognize the symptoms of a snake bite. You can recognize some or all of the following in a snake bite:

  • A double-entry puncture wound
  • Throbbing pain at the bite site
  • Sweating and loss of function
  • Nausea, salivating, loss of motor function
  • Disorientation and blurred vision
  • Inflammation

There can also be other signs like intense aches, emesis, drooling, swollen eyelids, thirst, increased or decreased temperature, and muscle weakness.

People that are most prone to snake bites include farmers, hunters, herders, anglers, and those who work in forests and bushes.

Common venomous snakes include those from the family Elapidae and Viperidae, which are the cobra and viper families, respectively. Each venomous snake has its distinct characteristics and geographical location, but you can treat all snake bites as deadly and harmful.

Health Risks of Snake Bites

Snakes live most of their lives on land; therefore, both venomous and non-venomous snake bites can prove fatal to the victim. Thus, it is important to stay clear of a snake if you spot one outside or in your home (as they are commonly found in attics). Furthermore, once spotted, you should work on removing the snake from your yard or getting rid of snakes in your attic as there are many health risks associated with them. Some of the conditions you may have as a result of a snake bite include:

  • Tetanus: Clostridium tetany is a common bacterium in the ground that easily attaches to the snake’s fang and injects into the victim’s body via the snake bite. This can occur in both venomous and non-venomous snake bites and lead to nervous signs like muscle spasms, paralysis, twitching, and lockjaw that eventually lead to the victim’s death. This is one of the deadliest health conditions you can see as an aftermath of a snake bite.
  • Necrosis: Depending on the snake type, the toxin may lead to irreversible cell death and multiple organ failure, which may lead to death or life-long loss of function of those organs.
  • Gangrene: There is also the possibility of gangrene that often occurs at extremities, especially the limbs. This may lead to the amputation of these parts of the body to save the victim’s life.
  • Brain damage: In some cases, the toxins affect brain cells and nerves, causing a display of symptoms like hallucinations, ptosis, i.e., bleeding from the mouth, paralysis of the ophthalmic nerves leading to external ophthalmoplegia. Then at later stages, there is a generalized loss of nerve function in many parts of the body, which leads to paralysis of the face, palate, tongue, vocal cords, jaw, muscles involved in swallowing, and neck muscles.
  • Heart problems: Snake bites reflect in the heart as bradycardia, hypotension, or tachycardia. This goes on to cause thickening of the heart muscles that may lead to cardiac incompetence and heart failure, which is not compatible with life.
  • Kidney failure: Oxygen depletion in the blood after the snake bite leads to ischemia that can cause necrosis in the kidney and lead to renal failure.
  • Some toxins can cause froth in the lungs that will cause the victim to have difficulty breathing and death. Others can cause extreme necrosis of the gut and lead to death.

First Aid Approach to Snake Bites

It is pertinent to understand that all snake bites are dangerous and should have equal urgency. First aid is not superior treatment, and the victim of the bite should seek medical assistance as soon as possible. To render first aid, here are a few tips:

  • The first aider must be calm and efficient. The victim is already under stress from the bite, and the condition may worsen when the victim becomes agitated or excited. You must, therefore, remain calm.
  • Do not try to wrap the bite site with a tourniquet, as is the common practice. You will only serve to centralize the venom at one location, causing a more severe effect in that region.
  • Make the victim lie as still as possible to manage the rate at which the venom flows through the blood.
  • The first aider should avoid sucking or suctioning the venom from the bite site.
  • Call the hospital immediately and seek medical help.

Reducing Snake Bite Risk

When working in areas where snakes are likely to be, wear protective gear like coveralls, boots, and gloves. Do not attempt to catch snakes or trap them without expertise and experience. Lawns and bushes around the home must be clean and low to avoid attracting snakes to your house.

Never assume that a snake is friendly and harmless. When it appears, give the snake room to escape and stay clear of its path.