Snakebites

By Dr. Manpreet Grewal

If you have been bitten by a snake, take the following steps until you receive medical help: 

  • Try to remain calm, and remove any jewelry or tight clothing before you experience swelling. 
  • Elevate the bite so it is at or below your heart. 
  • Clean the wound without flushing it with water, and cover it with clean, dry dressing. 
  • Do not cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.  
  • Do not try to capture the snake, but remember its color and any other identifying details. This information will help your doctor treat you effectively. 

Venomous snakebites consist of four different kinds of toxins: 

  • Cardiotoxins, which damage the heart directly 
  • Cytotoxins, which cause tissue damage at the site of the bite 
  • Hemotoxins, which cause internal bleeding 
  • Neurotoxins, which damage the nervous system 

The effects of a snakebite vary, from just healing from the puncture wound inflicted by the snake’s fangs, to fatal injury. Snakebites can cause symptoms including swelling, numbness, blisters, tissue death, internal bleeding, vision problems, and difficulty breathing.  

Anyone bitten by a snake should seek emergency medical treatment unless an expert identifies the snake as nonvenomous. The wound will be examined and cleaned, and your doctor may send blood and/or urine samples to be tested. Patients who go into shock may require intravenous fluids and possibly other medicines to maintain blood flow to vital organs.  

Your doctor may administer an antivenom treatment, and/or antibiotics to prevent infection. You should also receive a tetanus shot if you have not had one within the past five years.   

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