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Avinash Girija   June 8, 2016, 10:57 a.m.
Snakebite First Aid: What to do?

Snakebite First Aid: What to do?

There are 13 known species that are poisonous and of these four, namely Common Cobra, Russell’s Viper, Saw-scaled Viper and Common Krait are highly venomous and believed to be responsible for most of the poisonous bites in India.

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Ever since the origin of mankind man had a fear of reptiles especially snakes, those have always been dreadful than even the fear of death, among all animal the snake is one of the most widely known. Yet, we do not know enough about them. What the vast majority knows about snake is usually a bundle of unfounded belief injected in them from childhood and handed down from generations.

From the earliest time of the human race the snakes have evolved a profound sense of wonder and unspeakable fear in human. Snake custom of appearing all of a sudden, its ability to move in greater speed despite being limbless, snakes unblinking hypnotic stare, snake’s capacity to swallow whole animal much larger than them, snakes habit of shedding its skin entire periodically and emerging its presence in all manner of terrine on earth, under the soil, on high mountains, on trees, lakes, rivers and the ocean and in all kind of climates, snake’s ability o go without food for months together all these have been to us as a source of wonder and bewilderment and admiration. And more than everything else fear. Because no other animal can lay claim on such appealing contrariness.

Snakes of India

There are about 236 species of snakes in India, most of which are nonpoisonous. Their bites, apart from causing panic reaction and local injury, dose not harm the patient.

However, there are 13 known species that are poisonous and of these four, namely common cobra (Naja naja), Russell’s viper (Dabiola russelii), saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) and common krait (Bungarus caeruleus) are highly venomous and believed to be responsible for most of the poisonous bites in India.This assumption of great four, has led to nonidentification of other poisonous species which are going unnoticed and leading to deaths. The recent discovery of the humpnosed pit viper, capable of causing life-threatening symptoms.

First Aid

Fist aid should be carried out immediately or very soon after the bite, before the patient reaches a dispensary or hospital. Can be performed by victim himself or by anyone else who is present.

Much of the first aid currently carried out is ineffective and dangerous. The case management at the field level should include reassurance, immobilizing the bitten limb/Part and transporting the victim to nearest treatment facility at the earliest where definite treatment can be provided without confusion. Further work is necessary to determine the areas in which this species exists. The neurotoxin symptoms in Russell’s viper are believed to be due to presence of a presynaptic toxin like that in common Krait. All the patients should be kept under observation for a minimum of 24 hours. Many species, particularly the Krait and the hump-nosed pit viper are known for delayed appearance of symptoms, which can develop after 6–12 hours.

  • First of all, reassure the victim who may be very anxious.
  • Immobilize the bitten limb/part with splint or sling, any movement or muscle contraction increases absorption of venom into the venom and bloodstream and lymphatic’s.
  • Consider pressure-immobilization for some elapid bites.
  • Avoid any interference with the bite wound as they may introduce infection, increase absorption of venom and also increase local bleeding.
  • Do not attempt to kill the snake, as it will be dangerous. However if the snake is already dead/killed it should be taken to the hospital with the patient will make the snake identification process faster.


If discharged within 24 hours, patient should be advised to return if there is any worsening of symptoms such as bleeding, pain or swelling at the site of bite, difficulty in breathing, etc. The patients should also be explained about serum sickness, which may manifest after 5–10 days.

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