Treating a Snake Bite
The most vital effort after a cottonmouth snake bite is that of surviving the bite. Just like any other snake bite, the bite from these guys can be lethal and most certainly fatal if not treated in good time. However, rapid and proper response can contribute significantly to the survival of the victim. Truth be told there have only been a few cases of cottonmouth snake bites resulting in a death but extreme cation and due regard is a must.
Common Effects of snake Bite
1. The victim’s limbs quickly start swelling as the body resists the effects of the cottonmouth snake venom. The swelling is as a result of body fluids collecting around the bite area which gradually spreads to other body parts. The swollen body parts redden followed by severe itching. To avoid discomfort brought on by swelling, immediately loosen the clothes around the swollen areas.
2.The effects of the bite are similar to the septic shock symptoms. The symptoms include chills, increased heart pulse rate and trembling. The symptoms are due to the natural body response to the snake’s venom, or infection that affects the body tissues and the blood. In case the body immune system is weak, the symptoms become very severe in a short time.
3. Due to the infection and the action of the venom on the body’s muscle tissues, the muscle loses functioning which leads to paralysis of the victim. Fortunately, paralysis resulting from snake bite recede once treatment is given.
First Aid Steps
1. Always strive to keep the victim calm, relaxed, reduce movement and keep the bite area below the heart level; do not make the patient to lay down. Also keep reassuring the victim that the situation will be resolved once administration of CrobFab anti-venom has begun.
2. In cases where you have a pump suction device available follow the instructions and try to extract some of the venom from the wound. Update: Current studies show this to not be effective.
3. Eliminate any constricting item such as rings, watches and tight clothes to allow the swelling of the body. To reduce movement of the snake bite area hold it with a loose splint.
4. If you notice any color change (redness) on the swollen body parts know that the snake was poisonous thus urgent medical attention is paramount to save the victim.
5. Constantly observe, and if possible record the victim’s crucial signs such as change in temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure. If shock is evident, lay the victim flat, but keep the legs raised up-about a feet high making sure the bite area is above the level of the heart to slow the flow of the venom in the blood to the heart, then cover the victim with a blanket to reduce the effects of fever, or chills.
6. After first aid has been administered to the victim, call for medical assistance immediately and book the emergency room in advance.
7. If possible take the dead snake with you to the hospital, while taking great care of the head for most snakes can unwittingly bite hours after dying due to reflex (action of muscles as they die). However, if the snake was not killed, or caught do not risk more bites by hunting it down.
Things to Avoid When Treating Snake Bites
i) Never overexert the victim by making him or her or run walk to safety; carry the victim. Running fastens the speed at which the venom reaches the heart.
ii) Never apply a tourniquet on the snake bite wound for it cuts the air circulation to the wound.
iii) Never engage cold compressors such as ice and wet clothes to the wound
iv) Never make any incisions on the wound with any instrument
v) Never mouth-suck the venom from the wound
vi) Never give the victim medication such as painkillers and stimulants without the doctors advice
vii) Never administer anything orally
vii) Never raise the bite location above the heart level.
Once at the hospital, the patient will be treated by administering CroFab antivenom; the reason being that the species of the snake is known to be cottonmouth or water moccasin. The medical staff also uses other treatments to curb the effects of the cottonmouth snake bites such as high blood pressure, paralysis, swelling, pain and chills. The patient will in most cases be admitted at the hospital for a few days to monitor progress.
After Treatment and Recovery
The patient should be let to rest till the wound fully heals. The completion of the given dose is paramount to ensure complete healing and elimination of all the effects of the cottonmouth snake bite. After recovery, the patient should seek counseling especially if the ordeal had a psychological effect causing Ophidiophobia or Ophiophobia or snake phobia.
Author written by Dr. Samuel Dean of the Nassau Herptological Society