India is a country known to the western population as a country of snake charmers. Snake-bites are well-known medical emergencies in many parts of the world, especially in rural areas and India is one among them.
Rural farmers and livestock workers and their children are commonly affected.
The estimated number of deaths in India due to snakebite is almost 50 thousand/year. There is also a lack of proper registration of snake bite.
Most of the snake bites do not harm the patient apart from causing panic attack and local injury. However, there are 13 known species that are poisonous and of these four, namely common cobra, saw-scaled viper, common krait and Russell’s viper, are highly venomous and believed to be responsible for most of the poisonous bites in India.
For the management of snake bite it is important to know the species of the snake responsible for the bite. This may be achieved by identifying the dead snake or by inference from the clinical syndrome of envenoming.
Currently recommended first aid is based around the mnemonic “CARRY NO RIGHT” It consists of the following:
- CARRY = Do not allow victim to walk even for a short distance; just carry him in any form, especially when bite is at leg.
- No– Tourniquet, No- Electrotherapy, No- Cutting, No- Pressure immobilization Nitric oxide donor (Nitrogesic ointment/ Nitrate Spray) 3. R– Reassure the patient. Most of the snake bites are from non venomous species. Among them only 50% of bites by venomous species actually envenomate and cause harm to the patient.
- I = Immobilize in the same way as a fractured limb. Use bandages or cloth to hold the splints, avoid blocking the blood supply or applying more pressure which won’t help. Tight ligatures, they don’t work and can be dangerous!
- GH= Get to Hospital Immediately.
- T= Tell the Doctor of any systemic symptoms that manifest on the way to hospital.
Traditional remedies have NO PROVEN benefit in treating snakebite.
Get the victim to the hospital quickly, without recourse to traditional medical approaches which can dangerously delay effective treatment.
20 MINUTES WHOLE BLOOD CLOTTING TEST:
A few milliliters of fresh venous blood is placed in a new, clean and dry, glass vessel and left at ambient temperature for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes gentle tilting without shaking can be done to see if the patient is having incoagulable blood. If a blood clot is present, the test result is negative, whereas if no clot forms and the blood remains liquid, the test result is positive, indicating the presence of coagulopathy and the need for antivenom treatment.
- Antivenom is the only effective antidote for snake venom and is an essential element of treatment for bites by poisonous snakes.
- Indications for antivenom include signs of systemic and/or severe local envenoming. Judicious use of antivenom saves people from unwanted antivenom reactions, and saves people who really needed it.
- Antivenom should be given by slow intravenous injection or infusion to prevent complications.
- Epinephrine (adrenaline) should kept ready as it is given if there is any antivenom reaction.
- When no antivenom is available, judicious conservative treatment can save the life of the patient.
- Never give painkillers(NSAIDs) which can cause more bleeding.
- Never give Morphine- can cause respiratory failure
- If the patient is unable to perform a neck lift then they will be transferred to a higher centre with mechanical ventilatory capability.
- The rational application of ASV and repeat doses as needed has resulted in patients being discharged earlier.
Preventive measures to avoid snake bite:
Be aware of your surroundings. If you see a snake, back away slowly, let it go away or walk carefully around it. No matter what type of snake it is, do not attempt to handle, kill or trap it.
Other snake-bite preventive measures:
- Avoid walking in tall grass and fallen leaves, if you must work over there, be careful during that time.
- Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of Wood.
- Snakes are more active during the night and in warm weather, be aware during that time.
- Wear boots and long pants when working outdoors; snakes can bite through some types of clothing and footwear.
- Wear leather gloves when handling brush and debris.
- Make noise, snakes will avoid people if given enough warning.
- Take added precautions in the event of drought conditions or a natural disaster such as a hurricane, fire or flood. Snakes may be forced from their natural habitats and into areas where they would not normally be seen or expected, including houses.
- Finally, if you live in an area where snakes are prevalent, know which snakes are commonly present in your area and learn how to recognize the snake species.
Image Credits: Internet
Dr. Y. Alekhya.