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First aid : Snake bite

First Aid of Snake bite can save a life.
A snakebite has a wide range of signs and symptoms.

About 3,000 species of snakes are known, of which 15% are lethal. These species are dangerous because of their potential to inject venom into the person they bite. According to the World Health Organization, 4.5 to 5.4 million people per year get snakebites, of which 40 to 50 percent become critical. These deaths and complications are avoidable if one can provide the victims with appropriate first aid for a snakebite.

Signs And Symptoms

A snakebite has many signs and symptoms—from local tissue damage to the person’s death. The bite usually appears as two punctures in the skin inflicted by the predator’s fangs. Most initial symptoms include bleeding, nausea, feebleness, fatigue, and faintness. However, these symptoms worsen if the bitten person is left unattended and deprived of first aid.

Local Effects: Usually, the area where a snake bite occurs swells up. Other indications are local pain, inflammation, redness, and cyanosis (the area turns blue, indicating insufficient blood supply). Cyanosis indicates the death of local tissue. Blister formation in the area of snakebite is also prevalent. If first aid for a snakebite is not provided and the wound is left untreated, it can lead to the death of whole limbs and amputation.

Bleeding: Some species of snakes result in the rupture of blood vessels, and it causes hemorrhage (internal bleeding). This condition is boosted as venom adds anticoagulants to the prey’s blood, resulting in various conditions like shock (organ death due to insufficient blood supply), edema (accumulation of fluid in interstitial spaces), or death.

Muscle Degeneration: Snakebites have enzymes that attack proteins that contribute to the muscle’s basic structure, resulting in muscle breakdown and decreased mass. It leads to muscular atrophy (destruction).

Neurological and cardiac compromises: Venom from certain species directly affects the nervous system by destroying the nerve cells, leading to loss of reflexes. They may cause breathing problems and paralysis. Similarly, they cause myocardial infarction, arrhythmias, and many other cardiovascular diseases of severe nature. Initial and mild symptoms include blurriness of vision, hyperventilation, tachycardia or bradycardia, slurred speech, high blood pressure, arrhythmia, numbness, and loss of sensations. These mild symptoms, if left unattended, worsen the situation.

How to identify a poisonous snake bite?

  • Venomous snakes, when bit, leave two clear puncture marks. Puncture marks are the impression of the fangs through which venom is injected. Non-venomous snake bites leave an impression of two rows of teeth.
  • If a poisonous snake has bitten, there may be continuous bleeding as the venom contains anticoagulants that prevent blood clotting. On the other hand, blood flow from the wound of a nonpoisonous snake usually stops after a while.
  • If the bite is from a venomous snake, the area surrounding it swells and flushes after some time.

First Aid for Snake bite

First aid is the emergency medical care provided before the treatment. The first aid of snakebites slows down the spread of injected venom. Anyone can provide first aid; victims can give it to themselves or ask someone nearby to do that. As per  W H O, it includes:

  • In a snakebite, call an ambulance immediately as the priority.
  • Try to calm down the victim or yourself (in case the snake bites you), as panic might increase the blood pressure, favoring the spread.
  • Clean or wash the wound with cold water and a clean cloth. Cover the wound with a sterile dressing.
  • Immobilize the affected limb/part without too much pressure, which might compress underlying blood vessels. Most snakes bite on the limbs; thus, immobilizing the wound as one would do to a fractured limb is very effective. Immobilization is necessary to prevent the spread of poison by the circulatory or lymphatic system. The affected area can be immobilized using a splint, but it is essential to ensure that the affected area is leveled below that of the heart. The best way to immobilize is the Pressure Immobilization Method (PIM).

Immobilization :

  1. Use an elastic bandage to roll over the wound.
  2. Cover the fingers and toes, then take the bandage upwards to cover the whole limb using another layer of elastic bandage.
  3. Try to apply the bandage tightly, ensuring it doesn’t cause arterial compression.
  4. Without the bandage, any stretchable fabric, for instance, T-shirts, leggings, etc., will do.
  5. Do not use the Pressure Immobilization Method in case of bites on the head, neck, or abdomen.
  • Keep checking the skin color surrounding the wound area (if PIM is not applied), lips, and nails of the victim. The pulse should also be checked regularly to ensure it is not rising or falling abruptly. Check the victim’s temperature and ensure the affected area is not cold.
  • Do not try to slit, suck, or bite the wound, as it is highly dangerous and may increase the spread risks.
  • Do not use tourniquets. Although they were encouraged in the past, they can cause gangrene, according to recent studies.

Seek Medical Assistance

  1. Seek immediate medical aid in all cases of snakebites. Although a snake is not poisonous, there are chances of the transfer of bacteria that a snake might carry. Get Tetanus injections and antibiotics.
  2. When you or a person around you who a snake has bitten develops intense pain, swelling, change in skin color or lips or nail beds, or has ongoing bleeding, visiting a hospital becomes almost necessary.
  3. At the hospital, your blood, serum, and urine must be tested for proper anti-venom therapy. Anti-venom therapy cures an affected person and prevents any long-term outcomes.


Every year, many people get bitten by a snake. Depending upon the species, the snakes are poisonous, and even nonpoisonous snakes carry harmful bacteria. In such situations, lives can be saved if one knows how to perform first aid for snakebites.


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