Learn how to treat a Snakebite

Thailand contains a large number of snake species and like it or not, everyone who lives here will come into contact with them at some point. Thankfully of the 200 plus species that live in the country only around 60 species are poisonous and a bite from most of those would not be life threatening but would require treatment.

Many people have a deep-seated fear of snakes mainly through their lack of knowledge and believe that the only good snake is a dead one. This results in the death of many snakes that are non-venomous and completely harmless. This is very sad as they are beautiful, fascinating creatures.

The first thing to bear in mind is that most snakes will go to great lengths to avoid contact with humans. If they have a chance to get out of your way, they will!

Nearly all cases of snakebite result from standing on a snake or getting too close and leaving the snake feeling threatened, i.e. the snake is defending itself, not making an unprovoked attack. Snakes are deaf but very sensitive to vibration and will feel you coming long before you can see them.

If confronted by a snake in the wild, just slowly retreat and let it go about its business. You should NEVER pick up a snake even if you think you're certain it is harmless. It's easy to make a mistake and it could have serious consequences.

However, when a snake enters your home it is another matter. If it is allowed to disappear and conceal itself it could well pose a serious threat. There is little alternative but to kill it, unless you can safely shepherd it back outdoors or capture it. Always err on the side of caution.

But what should you do if the unthinkable happens and you are bitten? Many of us remember watching westerns when young and in the movie someone gets bitten by a rattlesnake. The "hero" opens up the bite with a knife then sucks the poison out! Not only does this not work it can also result in serious infection. Not from the knife but bacteria in the saliva. Applying a tourniquet is another widely held procedure but this can often result in the loss of a limb, assuming you survive the envenomation.

It is essential that the victim does not eat or drink or take any medication for the pain, e.g. paracetamol. The wound should not be washed as it would remove traces of venom which could help identify the snake. Ice also should NOT be applied.

Time should not be wasted trying to kill or capture the snake. So what should you do if you are bitten by a snake?

The MOST important thing is to stay calm. I know this sounds ridiculous but if you panic or get agitated your heart rate increases and sends the venom more quickly around the body. Contact emergency services IMMEDIATELY, do not wait for symptoms to develop.

Try to take a picture of the snake or make a mental note of its description, length, girth and colour. Try to keep the affected area below the level of the heart . You can apply a bandage but make sure you can push one finger under the bandage.

Apply pressure with your hand whilst awaiting for a bandage to be applied. If a limb has been bitten, try to apply a splint to immobilize it. Try to avoid unnecessary movement and remember that MOST snakebites are NOT fatal. Get to a hospital as soon as possible to receive anti-venom.


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