Snake bite is a very common incidence in Africa and mostly occurs in rural areas. Out of the 120 species of snakes in Africa, only 12 are highly venomous (poisonous). Poisonous and Non-poisonous snakes can be categorized and non-poisonous snakes can be categorized based on their distinguished physical features.
Characteristics of Poisonous Snake
1. Presence of paired fangs in their upper jaw
2. Pit between eye and nostril
3. Triangle shaped head
4. Elliptical pupil
Characteristics of Non-Poisonous Snake
1. Non- Venomous snakes have no fangs but have many tiny teeth.
2. Has no pit
3. It has a round shaped head
4. It has a round pupil.
Venomous snakes are grouped into three (3) based on the types of venom they produced. They are as follows;
1. Cytotoxic: cell damage e.g. Address and coral snake
2. Neurotoxin: nerve damage e.g. cobras, rattle and mambas snakes
3. Haematoxic: poor blood clotting e.g. vine and boomslang snake, pit viper, russel viper, etc.
Prior to a snake bite, the victim manifest some of the following clinical features,
1. Paired or single punctured marks or scratch mark at the area of bite.
2. Pain at the site of bite
3. Bruises around the site of bite
4. There may be speech and swallow difficulties
6. Copious salivation
7. Tingling sensation on the affected limb
8. There may be hematuria, hemoptysis, epistaxis
9. There may be ecchymosis and coagulation defects
10. Victim may show signs of shock
11. Difficulty in focusing and keeping the eyes open
12. There may be general paralysis, seizure etc.
MANAGEMENT IN THE COMMUNITY
1. Move the victim immediately away from the area where the bite occurred. If the snake is still attached, use a stick or tool to scare it off. Let the victim lie or sit down.
2. Remove any tight clothing from around the bitten part of the body as it can cause harm if swelling occurs. Restrict movement of the affected limb.
3. Access patients ABC and intervene where necessary if any alteration from normal.
4. Never use a tight arterial tourniquet as this may completely interfere with blood flow.
5. Applying pressure at the bite site with a pressure pad may be suitable in some cases
6. Avoid traditional first aid methods, herbal medicines and other treatments such as wound incision or excision, suctioning the bite site by mouth, or application of black stones to avoid contamination.
7. Wash the bite area with plain water thoroughly to clean any spill of poison sticking around the bite site.
8. Poison can be sucked out using breast pump, if available
9. The area of bite should be immobilized with a splint and maintained below the level of the heart
10. Do not instill anti-venom into eyes which have been spat into by snake.
11. Application of ice over the wound is discouraged because it worsens tissue damage.
12. Apply a sterile dressing to the bite area and bind firmly in place with a conforming bandage.
13. Clear any excess saliva from the mouth by finger sweeping.
14. If the snake is dead, it should be carried along to the hospital for identification.