What Is Snakebite Envenoming?

What Is Snakebite Envenoming?
Photo by David Clode

Envenoming is when an individual is injected with venom. Venom is an organic toxin or poisonous fluid that animals secrete.

The venom is injected into an individual through biting, stinging, or sprayed into the eyes, which can lead to death or paralysis of the heart if not attended to with immediate effect.

The animals inject venom to defend and protect themselves. At least four main classes of toxins affect an individual when bit by a venomous snake.

We have the neurotoxins and cytotoxins, which kill cells in the body; the neurotoxins, which affect the nervous system; and the mycotoxin, which damage muscles.

When they are not treated immediately, it can cause death, making it a life-threatening situation. Not all venom acts the same way.

Different venomous animals, such as snakes, spiders, scorpions, jellyfish, taipan, cone snail, etc., affect an individual differently, but snakes are known as the well-characterized venomous animal.

What Is Snakebite Envenoming?

Firstly, a snake is a limbless reptile with no eyelids, jaw, or a short tail. This reptile can bite, and some of the bites are venomous.

Snakebite Envenoming is a severe disease that affects an individual through a snake bite. There are no exact number of victims and no location where a snake can bite someone.

But the record has it that most people affected are the farmers, herders, fishermen, hunters, and those in the rural area (poor communities).

Someone bitten by a venomous snake suffers from mild or severe tissue damage because of the venom even after being treated.

Symptoms of snakebite envenoming

There are two categories of snakes: venomous and nonvenomous; not all snakes are venomous.

Some venomous snakes can be identified through their triangular-looking heads due to the protrusion caused by the venom glands behind their jaws, while the nonvenomous are mainly with the circle-looking heads.

Venomous snakes are categorized into viper and elapids with different snake species. Symptoms depend on the specie of snakes, and they include:

Rattlesnake

This specie belongs to the viper family, and they are known as the largest venomous snake in the United States. They can be identified as rattlesnakes because of the rings at the end of their tail.

They shake their tail when they are in danger. This specie is found in mountains, deserts, beaches, etc. When a rattlesnake bites, there are symptoms like discoloration, vomiting, weakness, blurred vision, etc.

King Cobra

This is one of the venomous snakes, also known as hamadryad, which belongs to the family of elapids. This King Cobra is peculiar to forests in India and Southeast Asia. The king cobra is one of the longest venomous snakes because it is about 18 feet long.

Its venoms are neurotoxic and affect the brain’s respiratory center, leading to cardiac failure, respiratory arrest, and the nervous system, leading the victim into a coma.

When bitten, if not treated immediately, you might have paralysis of the lungs and heart that may lead to death. Some symptoms of King Cobra include severe pains, drowsiness, etc.

Black mamba

They are primarily African indigenous snakes, known to be fast and most deadly. Though they may be nervous but highly aggressive when threatened. They live in rocky hills of southern and eastern Africa.

They are African longest snakes because they are up to 14 feet long. Some symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, etc.

Coral Snake

This type of snake has red, yellow, and black colors with a bulb-like head. They bite when they are stepped on. Symptoms may include headache, discoloration, stomach pain, convulsion, etc.

Copperhead

This is a type of venomous snake. They are most likely to bite when stepped on, primarily gold and reddish. Some symptoms of copperhead bite include shock, fall in blood pressure, weakness, discoloration, etc.

First aid treatments of snakebite envenoming

Generally, there are first aid treatments for every injury before administering the primary treatment as prescribed by the doctors.

The first aid treatment for snakebites includes:

  1. Call for help as soon as possible.
  2. Lie down with the wound in a neutral position or below the level of your heart.
  3. Try to stay calm to avoid venom spread.
  4. Remove any jewelry from the affected area if there is any.
  5. Wash the affected area with soap and water before covering it with a loose, sterile bandage.

Things you shouldn’t do when bitten by a snake

  1. Do not take alcohol as a pain killer or any pain relief medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
  2. Do not try to suck out the venom or bite the wounded area with your mouth; and this can be dangerous.
  3. Do not apply ice to the affected area.
  4. Do not cover with a tight bandage
  5. Do not cut the affected area with a knife.

Antivenom treatments of Snakebite

Though first aid treatments are essential for snakebites to reduce the symptoms before taking the person to the hospital.

Antivenom, also known as Antivenin, is the only specific antidote that can stop, neutralize, or strongly reverse most of the effects of snakebite envenoming when correctly administered.

This Antivenin is made up of antibodies from a host animal (sheep or horse) which has a large quality of antibodies against different venom components. The antibodies are processed into snake venom for treatment.

 Note that Antivenin is given based on the specie of a severe snakebite, and if the bite is not serious, the doctor can clean the wound and give a tetanus vaccine.

Prevention of snakebites

There are some preventive measured you must take to avoid snakebites.

  1. Stay away from forests or any related places where snakes are.
  2. Avoid working at night
  3. Stay alert when climbing rocks
  4. Always wear thick leather boots when working outside where the snake may be.
  5. Try to flee from any seen snake as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Not all snakes are venomous, but that does not mean you should not take precautions to avoid snakebites. As a parent, always advise your child to avoid different locations of snakes because snakebite venom affects young ones because of their smaller body mass. Don’t forget to inform your doctor if you are allergic to any vaccine before Antivenin is recommended.

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