How to Tell the Difference Between Serious and Deadly Snakebites

How to Tell the Difference Between Serious and Deadly Snakebites

How to Tell the Difference Between Serious and Deadly Snakebites

Because snakebites may be severe, and in some cases life-threatening, they must be treated as quickly as possible. Even without antivenom medication, however, the vast majority of patients undergo complete recovery.



 Most of the time, dangerous snakes will bite in self-defense and inject no venom at all — these kind of bites are known as dry bites. Other possibilities include antivenom not being needed if a potentially dangerous snake injects just a little quantity of venom – far too small to do major harm – and the presence of antivenom being unnecessary. Before administering antivenom to a snakebite victim, doctors must do a comprehensive examination of the patient’s condition.



Violent Snakebites vs. Serious Injuries

Mambas, cobras, the Rinkhals, the Puff Adder, the Gaboon Adder, the Boomslang, and the Twig Snake are just a few of the 173 species of snakes found in southern Africa that may be considered dangerous. 




The Mozambique Spitting Cobra is responsible for the great majority of severe bites, followed by the Puff Adder, the Stiletto Snake, and the Rhombic Night Adder, all of which are deadly. The Cape Cobra and Black Mamba attacks are responsible for the vast majority of snakebite fatalities in southern Africa.



Those who are taken to the hospital as quickly as possible following a snakebite have the best chance of surviving. In most cases, antivenom is not required in more than 15% of snakebite cases.





The Best Way To Avoid Getting Bitten – Keep snakes to yourself and treat them with care at all times. Never handle any snakes, no matter how little. Adult poisonous snakes are very deadly, but juvenile venomous snakes are much more so.

  • – Never interfere with a snake that seems to be dead, since many snakes have the unfortunate tendency of seeming dead when intimidated or afraid, just to lash out when the chance presents itself.
  • – If you want to spend a lot of time outside, dress in boots and sturdy pants or jeans. The lower leg should be protected with snake gaiters, which should be worn by hunters, hikers, birders, and anglers.
  • – Over logs and rocks can only be done with caution. Often, snakes may bask in the sun while partly hidden behind a log or rock.
  • – Never put your hands in a location where they can’t be seen, particularly while mountaineering. It is known that Berg Adders like to sunbathe on narrow ledges and will bite if a human hand arrives abruptly near by.
  • – Camping or accessing amenities in the wilderness should never be done without shoes or without a lantern. During the evening hours, many snakes become active, and slow-moving snakes such as the Puff Adder are easily trampled on.

If you come across a snake, do not attempt to kill or trap it. Rock-throwing and snake-shooting are both signs of impending catastrophe.


 Also, do not try to capture a snake with barbecue tongs, pin it, or grasp it behind the head with your fingers. You will almost surely be bitten if you attempt to hold certain snakes, such as the Stiletto Snake, securely behind the back of the head.



Instead of attempting to trap or kill the snake in an emergency situation, snap a picture of it from a safe distance to aid in the identification of the snake.




Affects of a Snakebite

From bite to bite, the symptoms of a snakebite might be quite different. Considering how rapidly many snakebites occur, victims are often unsure whether or not they have been bitten. A bite mark is seldom the typical two-fang penetration mark; instead, a bite mark is often from a single fang and may be little more than a scrape with some blood.




Some of the following signs and symptoms may be experienced by a snakebite victim.

  • – An acute searing sensation that is followed by swelling that goes up the leg and may impact the lymph glands (the Puff Adder and the Mozambique Spitting Cobra).
  • – Dizziness, trouble swallowing and breathing, drooping eyelids, and nausea are all possible side effects of this medication (the mambas and the Cape Cobra).
  • – Breathing through one’s nose, minor wounds, and then bleeding from the mucous membranes followed by significant internal bleeding after a few of hours (the Boomslang and the Twig Snake).
  • Nausea, discomfort, and trouble breathing are common symptoms of shock.
  • Don’t do anything if you are bitten by a snake… NEVER attempt to cut or suction the poison from an insect bite!
  • Snail venom adheres to local tissue extremely fast and is absorbed into the lymphatic system, thus suctioning only removes a little amount of the venom from the body. Secondary infection may occur as a result of wound cutting.
  • – Do not use any kind of electric shock treatment on yourself or anybody around you.
  • Snake venom is not neutralized by electric shocks.


A tourniquet should not be used.

Tourniquets, whether arterial or venous, are not recommended in the majority of bites since venom is first transmitted mostly via the lymphatic system rather than through veins in most cases. Using a tourniquet in the aftermath of a snakebite seems to have little evidence of effectiveness.




Applying freezing or hot water, lotions or potions is strictly prohibited. –

If you must clean the bitten site, use cold water and a sterile gauze bandage. Otherwise, let the bite site alone. Snake venom is not destroyed by boiling water. It is not permissible to provide alcohol to the victim.




As a first aid measure, do not provide antivenom.

Whenever antivenom is necessary, it has to be administered intravenously by a medical professional in a hospital setting and in considerable volumes. Occasionally, patients can have an allergic response to antivenom, which can result in anaphylaxis, which can be fatal if not treated swiftly.






How to Deal with a Snakebite in the First 48 Hours 

— Ensure that the person is sent to a hospital as quickly as feasible and in a secure way.
Ensure you have the phone numbers of the nearest hospital (with a trauma unit) and ambulance service memorized on your mobile phone and call ahead to alert them of the emergency situation.



 In addition to the navigational App Waze, you can search for hospitals or doctors by typing in the word or phrase. The nearest facilities and their contact information will be shown instantly. ASI Snakes is a free application available for iOS and Android devices.





Continue to maintain complete calm and silence on the victim’s part

In the lymphatic system, movement accelerates the spread of venom. If possible, immobilize the sufferer and place her down before transporting her to the nearest hospital (or arranging for her transfer). Attempt to raise the injured leg just above the level of your heart.


Discard any jewelry or clothes that is too tight.

Removing tight jewelry, clothes, and shoes should be done immediately if you are bitten on the hand, an arm, a foot, or a lower leg. This includes bangles, bracelets, watches, anklets, and any other tight jewelry or clothing.


Bandages should be used to provide pressure.

You might consider putting pressure bandages to the afflicted leg if you are more than an hour or two from the nearest medical facility. However, this should only be done in cases of suspected Black Mamba or Cape Cobra bites. Smart Bandages are discussed in further detail in the next section:

IMPORTANT Do not lose critical time applying a pressure bandage; instead, transfer the patient to the nearest hospital that has a trauma unit and, if feasible, apply the pressure bandage while the patient is being transported there.





Bandages Under Pressure

While the sufferer is being brought to the hospital, pressure immobilisation may be effective in preventing the spread of venom. Instead of spitting cobra or adder bites where severe swelling is expected, it should be used for bites from the Cape Cobra and Black Mamba, which are more aggressive. 


Although the goal here is not to slow down blood flow, it is to exert pressure on the lymphatic system, which will, in turn, delay the pace at which venom is absorbed.



It takes some practice to properly apply a pressure bandage, and getting the pressure just right takes some practice. Smart bandages are recommended in this situation.


A pressure bandage should be applied to the bite site after immobilizing the limb with a hand and applying hard pressure to the bite location as soon as possible.

n 50 and 70 millimeters of mercury on a blood pressure monitor. The use of a Smart bandage makes this conceivable, however using a conventional crepe bandage makes it almost difficult to do.

  • – However, as previously stated, it is unlikely to result in any negative consequences in the case of a Black Mamba or Cape Cobra bite without appropriate training.
  • – To immobilize a bite on the foot or leg, splint it and tie the two legs together to achieve the greatest amount of immobilization possible after applying the pressure bandage appropriately.
  • – To immobilize a bite on a hand, straighten the arm and, after the immobilisation bandages have been placed, splint the straightened arm to keep it immobile. Follow-up checks for the existence of a pulse below the bandage should be performed after it is applied. Every 10-15 minutes, take your pulse. It is necessary to remove the pressure bandage and reevaluate the necessity for it if the pulse is not felt.

In most cases, pressure bandages should be left in place until such time as the patient is admitted to a hospital, and they should only be removed by a medical professional when the patient is admitted to the hospital.



With the introduction of new Smart Bandages, which have printed rectangles that must be stretched until the rectangles form perfect squares, it is now much simpler to apply pressure bandages correctly than it was before.

How to Tell the Difference Between Serious and Deadly Snakebites

How to Tell the Difference Between Serious and Deadly Snakebites

Respiration in a controlled environment

Victims of major snakebite instances with snakes that have mostly neurotoxic venom, such as the Black Mamba or Cape Cobra, may suffer difficulties breathing for a period of time. In extreme circumstances, particularly those involving little children, this might occur in less than half an hour or even less.



 Begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as soon as possible in such cases! When bringing a victim to the hospital, assisted breathing may be necessary to save his or her life. You should definitely consider getting a bag valve mask (BVM) and going through the necessary training to learn how to use it if you live a long distance away from the closest hospital, live on a rural farm, or venture into the wilderness on a daily basis. 

It has the potential to keep a sufferer alive for many hours if it is utilized appropriately.



A bag valve mask is used in this situation.

It is necessary to get training before using a Bag Valve Mask. When a patient’s respiration is interrupted or has serious difficulties breathing, this medication may be administered to help them breathe more freely. The goal is to place the patient on his or her back, tilt the head backwards to free up the airway, and check that there is no obstruction or excessive fluids that might clog the airway before proceeding.



Use of a bag valve mask has many advantages over mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. A bag valve mask is significantly more effective than mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and does not involve intimate physical contact that might lead to contamination.


 It is possible to use a bag valve mask efficiently for many hours without being weary by the effort. Use of a bag valve mask along with oxygen provides the maximum concentration of oxygen achievable.



Using a bag valve mask has many disadvantages. The most significant is that it is difficult to get a good seal on the face, which has an impact on the mask’s effectiveness. It may be challenging for a single operator to achieve a satisfactory seal while also pressing the bag to inflate the chest at the same time.-



 It may be necessary to use a bag valve mask that is tailored to the exact size of the kid or baby. Because swallowing is impaired in snakebite victims, there is typically a lot of liquid collecting in their mouths; a hand pump may be necessary to drain the extra liquid.

how to cope with it Snakes that spit venom

The Mozambique Spitting Cobra (M’Fezi) and the Rinkhals are the most often seen spitting snakes in South Africa. Additionally, both of these snakes spray their poison up to three metres away from their attackers, which they do in self-defense to momentarily blind their assailant and enable the snake to flee.



Immediately cleanse the eyes with water or dilute the venom if you get venom in them.


  • – The eyeballs should be flushed out by putting the victim’s head under a slow-running tap while forcing the eyes open.
  • – After 15-20 minutes of flushing, send the sufferer to a medical facility where a slit lamp examination will be performed and local anaesthesia and antibiotic eye drops will be prescribed.
  • – If water is not available, other bland liquids such as milk or beer may be substituted, although water is the most effective.
  • – If the condition is addressed promptly, the possibility of lasting harm to the eyes is exceedingly unlikely.

Being familiar with pets, farm animals, and snakebite

The majority of dogs get bitten by snakes, generally while they are attempting to kill a snake. Cats are very swift and intelligent, and they exclusively target immature snakes, and they are seldom bitten. Farm animals, such as sheep, goats, horses, and cows, may be bitten by snakes, which commonly inflict bites on the face or neck. This can result in significant swelling and tissue damage, which can be fatal.



When it comes to rescuing your pet or farm animal after a snakebite, popular misconceptions are completely worthless.

  1. – Squeezing the animal’s neck to force milk down its throat.
  2. – Providing it with charcoal.
  3. – Administering Allergex pills to the animal.
  4. – the animal’s ear is cut to allow the poison to “bleed out,” as the term implies.
  5. A common practice is to inject your horse or cow with petrol, which is said to neutralize snake venom.

The bite of a neurotoxic snake (mostly mambas and certain cobras) may induce respiratory paralysis in the animal, putting its life in jeopardy. Without antivenom and/or aided breathing, such animals may succumb to their injuries. 


If the animal stops breathing while being transported to the veterinarian, you may attempt mouth-to-nose resuscitation.



Animals in this situation will almost certainly need antivenom, and they will almost certainly need to be put on a ventilator to assist them in breathing while the antivenom is taking effect.



Pain, swelling, and blistering are all symptoms of bites from snakes with mostly cytotoxic venom, such as adders and spitting cobras. Tissue damage may ensue from these bites, which can be life-threatening. In addition to tissue damage, small animals may suffer from considerable blood loss as well. 


When dogs get bitten in the face or neck area, swelling may result, which may make it difficult for them to breathe. This is especially troublesome in little dogs. Severely envenomated animals may die as a consequence of hypovolemic shock, tissue necrosis, and cell death, as well as other complications.



It may be necessary to provide two to six (or more) vials of polyvalent antivenom in severe instances of envenomation; this is because polyvalent antivenom neutralises the venom of several snakes, including as cobras, mambas, the Rinkhals, the Puff Adder, and the Gaboon Adder. Treatments of this kind might cost anything from R4,000 to more than R20,000.



When it comes to venom in the eyes, the therapy is the same as it is for humans. After 15 – 20 minutes, gently clean the dog’s eyes with water. Then take him to the veterinarian, who will administer a local anesthetic and antibiotic eye drops to him. The majority of canines recover their entire vision within a few days if the proper protocols are followed.



Apart from ensuring that the animal is transported to a veterinarian, there is little that an owner can do to preserve the life of a pet that has been bitten by a poisonous snake. The use of home remedies and first aid therapy has very little influence on the end result of a dog attack of this kind.

Become Familiar with Venom

It is difficult to understand the chemical makeup of snake venom since it differs widely from species to species. Even within a same species, there may be differences in the effectiveness of the venom. 



Toxins in snake venom are generally classified into three categories based on the type of toxin they contain: neurotoxins (found in the mambas and several cobras, most notably the Cape Cobra), cytotoxins (found in the Puff Adder, Gaboon Adder, and Mozambique Spitting Cobra), and hemotoxins (found in the Puff Adder, Gaboon Adder, and Mozambique Spitting Cobra) (the Boomslang and the Twig Snake).



But these are broad classifications that do not account for the complexity or mixtures of venom seen in certain species. For example, the venom of the Forest Cobra is composed of a combination of neurotoxins and cytotoxins. The term “neurotoxic” or “cytotoxic” venom is used to refer to the most common clinical consequences of venom from a particular species of snake.



When venom enters the neurological system, it is known as neurotoxic venom.
Drowsiness, vomiting, increased perspiration, impaired vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, trouble swallowing, speaking, and breathing, as well as weakening of other muscle groups, are all possible symptoms. 


The respiratory muscles become progressively paralyzed, resulting in respiratory failure.. Snakes having mostly neurotoxic venom include the Black Mamba, Green Mamba, and a few non-spitting cobras, amongst other species.



Affecting the tissue and muscle cells, cytotoxic venom is a kind of poison.
It is possible that the bite would cause acute scorching pain and swelling at the location of the bite, which might last for many days. Severe instances may result in swollen limbs across the whole body. 


A frequent occurrence is local tissue necrosis, which might end in the amputation of an extremity. The Puff Adder, Rhombic Night Adder, Mozambique Spitting Cobra, and Stiletto Snake are examples of snakes whose venom is mostly cytotoxic in nature.



The clotting process of the blood is hampered by hemotoxic venom.
When it comes to swelling and discomfort, there is generally little or none at first. Oozing of blood from the bite site occurs within a few hours after the bite, as does headache, mental disorientation, nausea and vomiting as well as increased perspiration. The bite is followed by a rash. 


There may be bleeding from tiny wounds, the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, purple spots beneath the skin, and finally significant internal bleeding that culminates in vomiting of blood and haemorrhage from the intestines after many hours of treatment. After a few days, kidney failure and brain haemorrhage are possible complications.




In the course of time, antivenoms have been developed.
When antivenom was initially employed in 1886, it was made in modest amounts at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where it remained until 1901. For example, a comprehensive first aid kit might have a needle, ligature, syringe, and two vials of serum, among other things.



A antivenom manufacturing facility was established at the South African Institute for Medical Research (SAIMR) in 1928. Although they experimented with a number of domestic animals for the purpose of serum production, they eventually opted on the horse, owing to the vast amount of blood that could be drawn during a single session.



 Antivenom manufacture was first restricted to the venom of the Cape Cobra and the Puff Adder, but in 1938, the venom of the Gaboon Adder was put into the market. A polyvalent antivenin was developed in 1971, and the venom of three southern African mambas was added to it.



 A variety of different cobras’ venoms were also introduced throughout the 1970s. In 1940, a monovalent antivenom for the venom of the Boomslang was discovered and successfully tested in the laboratory.



Today’s antivenom

South African Vaccine Producers in Johannesburg manufacture a monovalent antivenom that is effective against the venom of the Boomslang, a polyvalent antivenom that provides protection against the venom of the Puff Adder, Gaboon Adder, Black and Green Mambas, the Rinkhals, and all of the dangerous cobras in southern Africa, as well as a monovalent antivenom for the Saw-scaled Viper, which does not occur within our range of operations.


Snakebite kits, which comprise two 10 mL vials of antivenom and may be obtained directly from the SAVP, are available for purchase. A temperature range of 2-10 degrees Celsius must be maintained for the equipment, rather than being frozen. Its efficacy will be reduced if it is subjected to extreme heat. 


The kit has a shelf life of three years, and each vial contains an expiration date after which it should not be used any further.


When it comes to antivenom, it is not a first-aid measure and should only be administered by a medical professional in a hospital setting if absolutely necessary. It is the quantity of venom that is injected rather than the weight of the victim that determines the dose; a kid will thus get the same amount of antivenin as an adult.


 Antivenom is administered to the majority of snakebite patients, who get between 8 and 12 vials.



An allergic response to antivenom may occur in up to 40% of individuals who are treated with it. Occasionally, individuals have anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life-threatening illness in which the blood pressure decreases and the heart may stop beating altogether. In such cases, adrenaline is administered by doctors.