Snake bite management has remained a confusing chapter in medical books. The complexity of snake venom and its diverse medical complications on the human body has rendered us clueless as to which is the best ‘First Aid’ for a snake bite victim. There are few medical boards preferring application of external force on the bitten limb, in the shape of tourniquets and ligatures while few others oppose that practice. At Friends of Snakes, the best First Aid is something that would help us save not just the life – also the limb!
We have to understand that most of the common venomous snakes in India – the Vipers and the other Cobra species have venom that causes serious damage to the bite area. Any external force applied to restrict the blood flow might as well confine the venom to a smaller area of the limb causing severe and irreversible tissue damage. In such events one could save the life but might have to part with the damaged limb or a digit because of necrosis and other complications. Moreover, when a ligature or a tourniquet is loosened after a period of constriction, the venom could enter the system much faster leading to respiratory failure or other complication. Also, when we are using these external applications for a longer time, we cut the oxygen and blood supply to the affected limb leading to hypoxia and necrosis.
FIRST AID FOR A SNAKE BITE:
1) Remember, panic is the main killer during snake bites. Reassure the patient that snakes bites are treatable and calm the patient. Nervousness or panic could increase your heartbeat, thereby felicitating the venom flow in the blood stream.
2) Wash the wound with running water. The running water would remove the overlying superficial venom. Do not use your hand to push the venom out of the wound. It would just complicate the bite area.
3) Immobilise the patient and rush to the closest hospital. Remember, although you would have more than three or four hours before your condition becomes life threatening, quicker the treatment, lesser the complications!
1) Do not cut the wound or try to suck the venom out. You must have already figured out that it happens only in the movies, especially with the heroine and almost always it is the hero to the rescue. Cutting the wound area could create new entry site for the venom to pass through the blood stream. Sucking the venom out could also prove fatal. Fine lacerations in the gum cavity of the rescuer could be the new channel through which the venom from the victim’s body might enter into the rescuer’s!
2) Do not try to kill the snake that bit you! There are instances where victims tried to kill the snake and in the process got themselves bitten several times. The snake bite treatment in India is done symptomatically. The doctors would treat you based on your symptom. Identifying the snake that bit you might be useful, but there is no need to produce the Defendant!
3) Do not exert yourself after a bite. Physical activity increases the blood flow in the body.
(MORE TO COME)