Keep calm when a snake bites, it can save your life

Keep calm when a snake bites, it can save your life
With so many snake species in our country, snakebites are unavoidable. Area wise, Europe may be three times bigger than India, but the continent has six times less snake species. Not only do we have high species diversity, their numbers are also high in a tropical country such as ours because of factors conducive to their existence. So, what happens when a venomous snake bites and what should we do?

In India, we have almost 275 species, of which only about 60 are venomous. Even among these, not all are fatal and not all are found in areas of dense human population. There are four common venomous snake species living close to human settlements and these are -— saw-scaled viper, Russell’s viper, common krait and spectacled cobra. So, what do you do if you get bitten by one of these? The general notion is that a tight tourniquet and X incision on the bitemark are useful first aid tips, but both actions can do more harm than good and even cause medical complications. If we take the following four steps after snakebite, we can reduce chances of big trouble in the victim’s life.

First is to know where and how one can get emergency services. India still needs to develop and equip emergency services in small towns and villages. There are many chances that some private and government agency can help but one has to be able to reach that facility. Many times we go for trekking or jungle safari and such chances increase. In the absence of proper information, we end up wasting crucial time between the snakebite and treatment. Timely availability of emergency medical help is vital before one reaches the hospital.

Secondly, after the bite one should carefully prepare a mental picture about the snake, so that it can be described to the doctors. If it is possible to take an actual picture with camera/ mobile, it is always good, but it should be done carefully as it may be a risky job. In case you have not been able to see the snake, there is a single multi antidote that is available for all four snakes. The third step is that the patient is kept as still and as calm as possible so that the blood circulation is in control and the venom enters slowly into the bloodstream.

The fourth step is to put an alcohol-dipped gauze (if available) on the wound and put slight pressure to stop the excessive bleeding. Excessive blood lose can create more trouble and would call for further medical attention. Any kind of cut/incision on the wound can be more harmful and become a reason for excessive blood loss. What’s more, you could even end up cutting a vital artery or vein. A tight tourniquet may hold the venom at one place but that can damage the particular organ more and become a reason for amputation as gangrene may set in.

Just keep these basic points in mind and you will be well equipped to protect yourself and others in the event of a snakebite. Snake has created the venom to digest rodents and other creatures not for us, hence some basic precaution and care can help us in saving a life.

(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)

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