Here’s what you should do if bitten by a snake

New medications and surgery, if necessary, are far more effective for snakebites.

Last Updated: Dec 02, 2010, 12:13 PM IST

Washington: The best thing you can do if you are a victim of a snakebite is to get to a hospital as soon as possible, according to experts at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre, Winston-Salem, NC.

Current medical treatments, including new medications and surgery, if necessary, are far more effective for snakebites than anything you can do on your own.

“Previous generations of antivenin medications were notorious for causing negative systemic reactions. But the antivenins we have available today can not only help avoid long-term damage from the snake venom, but they can also prevent the need for more invasive medical treatment,” said Adam W. Anz, an orthopaedic surgeon.

The symptoms of a snakebite range from pain, swelling, and bruising to an irregular heartbeat, paralysis, and muscle twitching.

“Orthopaedic surgeons are experts in regard to treating the extremities, and the hands and feet are the parts of the body most often bitten by snakes,” said Dr. Anz.

Tips for avoiding snakebites:

• Understand the types of environments where people are likely to encounter snakes. For example, wooded areas with deep piles of leaves or stacks of wood are frequently home to snakes.

• If you encounter a snake, get away from it. Do not attempt to pick it up or threaten its safety in any way.

If you are bitten:

• Identify the type of snake if possible by clicking a picture from your mobile phone.

• Get away from the snake.

• Do not attempt to suck out the venom.

• Do not apply a tourniquet unless you have a great deal of knowledge about snakes and the effects of snakebites. For some types of venom, a tourniquet can actually do more harm than good.

• Immobilize the affected body part.

• Remove all rings or restrictive jewellery on the affected limb, since snakebites often cause swelling.

Relevant facts and statistics:

• Most snakebites result from intentional exposure, whether in a professional context (e.g., snake handling) or non-professional context.

• Alcohol consumption is involved in the majority of bites, resulting from risky behaviour.

The article appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

ANI