Thursday, July 17, 2008

Snake Bites

Updated 3/2017-- photos and all links removed as many are no longer active. 

I couple of weeks ago when walking my dog early one Sunday morning, we came upon a snake with another snake in its mouth (similar to this). I was left wishing I'd had my camera with me. Then earlier this week on Twitter, there was quite a discussion going on after Theresa admitted a patient with a rattle snake bite. So I thought I would re-post my June 7, 2007 post on Snake Bites. Here it is
I found this under my patio table in the backyard yesterday. Yikes! I really don't like snakes, but can deal with them when necessary. Fortunately, my husband was home. So he dealt with the snake (It's a good snake, says he.) while I took the dogs for a walk. It turns out he was right. The snake is a Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos). In Arkansas, our poisionous snakes include Copperhead / Pigmy Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth, Timber Rattlesnake / Coral Snake, Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Comparative risks tables place the annual death from drownings at more than 6,000 and the annual deaths from snake bites at 5.5.

There is a very nice review article of snake bites (Bites and Stings: Snake Bites) at Medscape. First Aid in the field (or home) consists of:
  1. Preventing systemic absorption of the toxin which may be done with compressive dressings and immobilization of the bitten extremity.
  2. If signs of envenomation begin to occur, a constriction band to impede lymphatic flow should be placed on the extremity, proximal to the bite. Transport to a hospital should take place immediately.

  3. The site should be wiped off and cleaned. The use of field first-aid methods such as incision and suction, tourniquets, and cryotherapy has been associated with a threefold increase in the likelihood of the need for surgical intervention.
  4. Although popular belief has it that snakebites kill within minutes, in fact, the toxicity from snake venom usually does not even begin to affect the body for several hours. In one review, 64% of deaths from snakebite occurred between 6 and 48 hours after the patient was bitten.
I have never in my years of practice had to deal with a snake bite, but have a healthy fear of cotton mouths and copper heads. I know that snakes may be an important part of our environment, but I still don't like snakes.
Have a safe summer enjoying the outdoors!


Midwife with a Knife said...

One of the med students I was in Ecuador with got bit by a snake. The guide said it wasn't poisonous, and he seemed to do fine.

He was bitten in the attempt to chase the snake down. Typical 22 year old guy sort of thing.

rlbates said...

So glad it wasn't poisonous.