SnakebiteCarola Felchner is a freelance writer for NetDoktor's medical editorial team and a certified exercise and nutrition consultant. She worked at various trade magazines and online portals before starting her own business as a journalist in 2015. Before her traineeship she studied translation and interpreting in Kempten and Munich.
A snake bite can cause different symptoms of poisoning if a venomous snake has snapped. In this country, for example, an adder bite can cause symptoms of poisoning, while a grass snake bite is non-toxic. Read here what first aid measures you should take in case of a snake bite, what is not advisable and how to avoid a snake bite!
Snake bite: brief overview
What to do in case of a snake bite? First aid: Calm down the affected person, immobilize him, if necessary. Take care of the wound. Remove jewelry/clothing. Bring the affected person to the hospital or call the rescue service. Snake bite risks: Nerve and muscle damage, blood clotting disorders, circulatory problems, allergic reactions (itching, nausea, drop in blood prere, etc.) may occur.), serum sickness (when administering antivenom) When to see a doctor? Always! Any snakebite is an emergency, as the danger they pose usually cannot be assessed in the field.
– Some snakes play dead when in danger! In addition, even dead snakes can. Even severed snake heads still reflexively snap shut! Here's why you shouldn't touch a (presumed) dead snake (without protective measures) or photograph it up close. – Even though it is often done in movies – a snake bite wound should not be tied off, sucked out, burned out or cut out. Such measures do more harm than good. – Fear and movement cause snake venom to spread faster through the body. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that the patient remains as calm and quiet as possible.
Snake bite: What to do?
Aim at a snake bite First aid mainly aimed at preventing possible Poison effectstoDelay, until the patient can receive medical attention. In addition, the aim is to reduce the pain and anxiety of the patient. In detail, first aid for snakebites looks like this:
CalmAfter a snake bite, many people are very frightened. But agitation and panic reactions accelerate the distribution of invaded snake venom in the body. Therefore, you should talk to the patient in a calming manner. Keep calm: Ensure that the patient immediately lies down quietly (at a safe distance from the snake to avoid a second bite). He should move as little as possible to slow down the distribution of the venom in the body. If bitten on the arm or leg, you can splint the affected limb with sticks and bandages to immobilize it. if necessary. Take care of the wound: Leave the bite wound alone if possible. At most you should disinfect them. Cover with a sterile or at least clean dressing. However, this must not be too tight under any circumstances. Impair the blood circulation! Remove jewelry and clothingIn case of a snake bite on the hand or arm, you should quickly remove rings, bracelets, watches and constricting clothing before the tie swells. In case of a snake bite on the leg, remove tight-fitting shoes and tight pants (if necessary. cut it open). Immediately go to the doctorTake the patient to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. During transport it should move little, if necessary transport it lying down. If possible, have the patient picked up by emergency medical services. if necessary. take the dead snake with youIf it is safe to do so – and only if it is safe to do so! kill the snake. Take it to the clinic. If the doctor knows what venom he is dealing with, he can immediately initiate the right therapy. If it is not possible to safely take the dead snake, you can alternatively memorize its appearance or possibly photograph it (from a safe distance). This makes it easier for doctors to identify.
The measures taken in many films after a snake bite are often anything but advisable. In some circumstances they do more harm than good. The following should therefore be taken to heart after a snake bite:
Do not tie off: Tying cuts off blood flow, pinches nerves and increases local venom effect. As a result, the tie can swell extremely. Even die (necrosis). In addition, bleeding into the tourniquetted limb is possible. Do not burn out, cut in, or cut out: Such measures can hardly reduce the amount of venom in the body, but rather promote the spread of the venom (if larger vessels are destroyed). In addition, dangerous bleeding can occur (if blood clotting is disturbed). Do not suck: you cannot create enough negative prere with your mouth to suck out enough snake venom from a bite wound. In addition, you could poison yourself.
Experts also advise against the use of special devices for first aid after a snake bite (venom extractors, electric shock devices).
Snake bite: risks
What a snake bite looks like, many people know thanks to his more or less characteristic bite mark at least roughly: the bite usually manifests itself in the form of two adjacent, punctate puncture marks. If a venomous snake has bitten and venom has actually been injected, further symptoms will develop – usually 15 to 30 minutes, but sometimes not until several hours after the snake bite.
Snake venom is a watery secretion from special salivary glands of venomous snakes. When bitten, it usually enters the victim's body via a hollow anterior tooth in the upper jaw (in the case of trug snakes, via poisonous teeth in the back of the throat) – although not in every snake bite. There are also so-called "dry" bites, In which a venomous snake bites but does not inject venom into its victim's skin.
Snake venom consists of various proteins (proteins) with toxic and enzymatic properties. They can cause various symptoms in the human body. Remove membranes from body cells. Thus destroying a great deal of tie. The enzyme Hyaluronidase Loosens the surrounding tie, so that the remaining snake venom can spread rapidly. Very dangerous Hemorrhagine. These are enzymes that interfere with blood clotting and damage the tiny vessels (capillaries).
Patients who have received an antivenom (antiserum) after a snake bite can develop the so-called "serum sickness" after a few days. This includes late allergic reactions such as hives, mild tie swelling (edema) and joint pain. They can be treated with medication (with antihistamines and cortisone).
Snakebites are usually sterile, so do not usually introduce germs into the wound. This means that, as a rule, primary infections do not occur. However, germs can enter subsequently. Then trigger a so-called secondary infection. But this rarely happens.
A survived snakebite usually has no permanent consequences – apart from possible tie loss (through necrosis) and possibly an amputation. The latter may be necessary, for example, if the bite wound was improperly treated.
It can take weeks or even months to fully recover from a snakebite. Adders belong to the group of vipers. Are the most common venomous snakes in German-speaking countries. If (sufficient) venom has been injected during a viper bite, a painful swelling quickly forms around the bite mark. This may turn bluish and spread to the entire extremity and beyond. In addition, the lymph nodes in the affected body region often swell and the lymph vessels become inflamed (lymphangitis).
In addition, many patients show sometimes violent panic reactions after a viper bite. General symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting are also sometimes observed.
Only in rare cases do more severe poisoning symptoms develop. A bluish blister may form at the site of the bite and tie may die (necrosis). Severe circulatory problems with heart palpitations, drop in blood prere and circulatory shock are also rather the exception.
Occasionally, as an allergic reaction to the adder bite, the tie around the eyes, upper lip, tongue and larynx swells (angioneurotic edema). Very rarely, an adder bite causes drowsiness in children.
Symptoms after snakebites
It depends largely on the composition and dose of the injected venom mixture, which symptoms occur, how severe they are and how dangerous it can become for the patient. Essentially, there are five symptom complexes that can occur after snakebites:
Nerve damage (neurotoxic symptoms)
Venom injected during a snake bite can block the peripheral nervous system. Then paralysis of the striated musculature occurs. The first signs include drooping of the upper eyelids (ptosis) and paralysis of the facial and jaw muscles. In the further course, the paralysis spreads to the respiratory muscles, which can lead to death by suffocation.
These neurotoxic snakebite symptoms are caused, for example, by cobras, mambas, sea snakes and some rattlesnakes.
Muscle damage (myotoxic symptoms)
In some cases, snake venom has a toxic effect on striated muscles and damages them. This sometimes results in severe muscle pain.
The destruction of the muscle tie is also noticeable in that the creatine kinase level rises in the blood and myoglobin can be detected in the urine: both proteins are normally present inside the muscle cells and are released during cell destruction.
The released myoglobin colors the urine dark brown. It can also damage the tubule cells in the kidneys, which can lead to kidney failure.
Such myotoxic symptoms may result, for example, from the bite of some vipers, rattlesnakes, poisonous snakes, and sea snakes.
Blood clotting disorder
Often a snake bite triggers a blood coagulation disorder, up to the so-called consumption coagulopathy (disseminated intravascular coagulation): The venom first activates the coagulation system. This results in the formation of numerous small blood clots that can clog fine vessels. The clot formation also consumes so many substances necessary for clotting (such as platelets, clotting factors) that corresponding deficiency states occur. This can go so far that the blood eventually can no longer clot at all. Unstoppable bleeding (such as bleeding from wounds, bleeding from gums and nose) are the consequences. Also vomiting of blood. Bloody urine may occur.
Especially after a viper-snake bite, but also after the bite of trick snakes (such as African tree snakes), such a severe blood clotting disorder can develop.
Swelling (edema) around the bite site
If the area of tie around the snake bite swells (edema), this indicates that venom was indeed injected. Edema can be massive. Spread rapidly to the entire arm or leg. If the bite is from a viper or rattlesnake, extensive under-bleeding of the skin (with blisters) will form around the bite site. In addition, surrounding tie dies (tie necrosis).
Occasionally, a snake bite causes shock and circulatory problems, such as nausea, weakness and dizziness.
If someone develops vomiting, weakness, pallor and sweating after a snake bite, this does not necessarily have to be due to snake venom. Such symptoms can also be psychological, that is, triggered by the panic of the affected person. Finally, a snakebite puts most people in great fear.
Snake bite: when to see a doctor? Basically, any snakebite is a potential emergency. Should be treated as such. This means: Always take the affected person to the doctor or call the emergency services.
The good news is that about 50 percent of all snakebites (including those from venomous snakes) are "dry" or "empty" bites in which no venom has been injected. They leave a bite mark but do not cause widespread symptoms of poisoning such as muscle or nerve damage. This is also true in the case of an adder bite. Even if venom has been injected, it is often so little that no symptoms develop other than local swelling at the site of the bite. Only rarely does an adder bite cause severe poisoning. Deaths are even the absolute exception.
However, since it is usually difficult to assess how dangerous the snake bite is in individual cases, it should always be examined by a doctor.
Snakebite: examinations by the doctor
If you have been bitten by a snake, the emergency physician/doctor will first ask you or any accompanying persons for necessary information. Possible questions include:
– When and how did the snakebite occur? – How much time has passed since then? – Know which species of snake has bitten?
The doctor will then examine you immediately. He carefully inspects the bite wound, checks your vital signs (such as breathing and blood prere), and takes blood and urine samples for analysis in the lab. As soon as possible, he will then initiate a suitable therapy.