Snake bites cause the death of around 81,000 to 138,000 people annually according to WHO’s (World Health Organization) statistics. Snake venom poses a serious threat to human health and can cause fatal haemorrhage, irreversible kidney failure to tissue damage leading to permanent motor disability and even amputation. Although anyone working with snakes or in areas prone to snakes can be at risk, agriculture workers and children are the highest risk groups.
What are the signs and symptoms of a snake bite?
While we tend to associate paired fang marks or scratches with snake bites, certain snakes may also leave lesser visible marks. Typically, there are two types of snake bites:
- Dry snake bite - This kind of bite is seen in the case of most non-venomous snakes, when the snakes don’t release any venom after they have bitten the victim.
- Venomous bites – These are left by venomous snakes and are likely to be more dangerous and threatening.
What do snake bites look like? Venomous snakes generally leave the double fanged puncture on victims. Non-venomous snake bite symptoms have two rows of teeth marks. Bites from non-venomous snakes don’t require the administration of antivenoms.
Signs and symptoms of poisonous snake bite contain a wide range of potent toxins that could lead to critical clinical injury like anaphylaxis, paralysis, bradycardia (lower heart rate), fatal haemorrhage, irreversible kidney failure and ultimately, death. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between venomous and dry snake bite symptoms, which is why you should seek medical care as soon as possible if you are bitten by a snake.
Some signs and symptoms of a snake bite are:
- Bite marks on the site of injury (either prominent or small)
- Pain and red swelling around the bite, sometimes accompanied with pain in the limb where the snake has bitten
- Swelling, bruising and in some cases, bleeding from the wound
- Blurred vision
- Excessive sweating
- Increased thirst
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbness and tingling, especially in the mouth
- Breathing difficulties
Snake bite development
The usual snake bite development is:
A headache (an important symptom), irritability, photophobia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion; coagulation abnormalities; occasionally sudden hypotension with loss of consciousness.
Cranial nerve paralysis (ptosis, diplopia, dysphagia etc), abdominal pain, haemoglobinuria, hypertension, tachycardia, haemorrhage.
The leg, arm or affected area and lungs may experience paralysis leading to respiratory failure or difficulty in breathing. Blood flow on the upper and lower parts of the body and the surface of the skin may be restricted. A process called rhabdomyolysis is triggered, in which muscle tissue is broken down leading to the release of the constituents of muscle fibre in the body. A protein found in muscle cells that works as an oxygen supply unit to your muscles is released in urine. This condition can cause acute kidney injury and in a worse cases, acute kidney failure and death.
This sequence of events is, of course, variable. For example, brown snake bite mark have been known to lead to dead within 5 minutes.
Snake bites can be dangerous and deadly and you need to seek medical attention immediately.
➕ Signs and symptoms of snake bite in dogs?
Owners should be alert for the following signs:
- Lethargy, depression, severe weakness, shortness of breath, loss of orientation.
- Severe pain at the site of the bite: the dog may not even let you touch the affected area.
- Swelling at the site of the bite (appears within an hour or two and can be very significant).
➕ Signs of snake bite in cats?
It is important to remember that clinical signs after a snake bite in cats may not appear immediately, but in the interval from 40 minutes to 3 hours. These signs resemble those of heart failure: the animal is lethargic, may lie down and breathe heavily, and the bite site itself may also swell. If within 3 hours after the walk the condition of the animal worsens, there is reason to suspect a snake bite.