How to Stop Infection from a Snake Bite: A Comprehensive Guide
Snake bites are known to be some of the deadliest in the world, and Australia is no exception with a plethora of snakes in the wilderness.
What should you do to prevent infection after being bitten by a snake?
Short Answer: Antibiotics and professional medical help is needed to prevent infection
- If immediate treatment is not received, complications can occur in the form of sepsis, or even death
- According to statistics, 30.8% of snake bite victims suffer from infection
- Non-venomous and venomous snakes both can cause infection in people
- Snake bites can be puncture wounds that become life-threatening illnesses
Introduction to Snake Bites and the Risk of Infection
Snake bites are extremely dangerous as they cause serious injury or even death. They possess venomous fangs that they use for self-defense to immobilize their prey.
When a snake bites a human or animal, it injects venom into the bloodstream, which can lead to various health complications.
There are a number of different venomous snakes around the world, including cobras, rattlesnakes, mambas and others. The severity of a snake bite depends on factors such as:
- Species of snake
- Location of the bite
- Amount of venom injected
- Individual’s sensitivity to venom
Signs and symptoms can vary widely. Some of the common symptoms may include:
General symptoms from snake bites could include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Changes in heart rate
Snake bites have the potential to introduce bacteria into the body, increasing the risk of infection. However it is important to note that the primary concern with snake bites is typically the venom and its effects.
Signs of infection from a snake bite can include increased pain, warmth around the wound site, swelling, and fever. If any of these signs develop after a snake bite, immediate medical attention is needed.
If the snake’s fangs break the skin, it creates an open wound that is susceptible to infection from the surrounding environment, especially the outdoors can make it worse.
Factors such as poor wound care, delayed medical treatment, and the presence of bacteria in the snake’s oral cavity can contribute to a risk of infection once someone has been bitten.
It is worth noting that while infection is a concern with snake bites, the immediate priority is seeking medical attention for the potential effects of the venom.
Immediate Steps to Take After Being Bitten by a Snake
If you or someone else has been bitten by a snake, there is obviously going to be panic which is completely understandable, but at the same time immediate steps need to be taken to minimise the potential effects of the bite.
Let’s take a look at the steps you should take after a snake bite:
Remain calm and try your very best to not panic. Panicking can elevate your heart rate to accelerate the speed of venom throughout your body.
If this happens, it will be more difficult to treat and more complications will arise.
Move away from the snake to avoid being bitten more. Try to remember the appearance of the snake if possible, as this can help later on when you are being treated.
Call emergency services or go to the nearest medical facility immediately. Snake bites are a medical emergency and medical help is crucial in preventing further complications.
Immobilise the affected area
If it is possible, immobilise the bitten limb using a splint, sling, or any other means to restrict movement.
This will help to slow down the spread of the venom in the body.
Remove any constrictive items
Remove any tight clothing, jewellery, or constrictive items near the bite site. Swelling is likely to occur, and removing these items can help prevent further complications from happening.
Do not apply ice or heat
Avoid applying ice or heat packs to the bite site. These measures have not proven effective in managing incisions over the bite wound.
These actions can cause further damage.
Do not suck venom out or make incisions
Contrary to popular belief, it is definitely not recommended to suck the venom out or make incisions over the bite wound.
Do not apply a tourniquet
Applying a tourniquet will not help matters since it will restrict blood flow and cause more harm than good. It is not recommended for snake bites.
Keep in mind that only healthcare professionals can provide the necessary treatment for snake bites such as administering antivenom and managing other complications effectively.
Preventing Infection from a Snake Bite: Tips and Practices
Preventing infection after a snake bite is crucial for a successful recovery. There are certain tips you can follow when it comes to minimising risk of infection:
The first and most important thing to do is to seek immediate medical attention after a snake bite.
Healthcare professionals will assess the wound, administer appropriate treatment, and provide guidance to prevent infection.
If possible, clean the snake bite wound with mild soap and clean water. Gently wash the wound to remove any dirt or debris.
Avoid scrubbing the wound vigorously, it could worsen things.
Avoid wound irrigation
It is generally not recommended to forcefully flush the wound with water or other solutions.
This could push bacteria deeper into the tissue or disperse the venom in the wound.
After you have cleaned the wound, apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment or cream as directed by a healthcare professional.
Doing so, it will create a barrier against infection-causing bacteria.
Avoid immersion in water
While the wound cleaning is necessary, avoid immersing the bitten limb in water, such as swimming or soaking.
Prolonged exposure to water can increase the risk of infection in the bite wound.
Monitor for signs of infection
Keep a close eye on the snake bite wound for any signs of infection. These can include swelling, pus or discharge, warmth and increased pain.
Complete full course of antibiotics
If healthcare professionals prescribe antibiotics, make sure to take the full course as directed, even if the wound appears to be healing well.
Completing the prescribed antibiotics helps prevent development of resistant bacteria and there is thorough eradication of any existing infection.
Preventing infection is just one aspect when it comes to dealing with a snake bite. Prompt medical attention and administration of antivenom is essential to address the effects of venom.
When to Seek Attention and What to Expect from Treatment
It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you are unsure whether the snake was venomous or if you are not experiencing immediate symptoms, it is better to be on the side of caution and seek help.
Prompt medical attention is crucial because the effects of the venom can vary, so a healthcare professional can assess the severity and provide the correct treatment.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from treatment for a snake bite:
Once the snake bite has been assessed, the healthcare professional will try to identify the snake species that caused the bite.
This will help to determine the antivenom and treatment approach for the person bitten.
Monitoring and Vital signs
Your vital signs, such as your heart rate, oxygen levels and blood pressure, will be monitored regularly to track any changes and evaluate the progression of the symptoms.
Administration of Antivenom
If the snake bite is determined to be venomous or if there are signs of envenomation, antivenom will be administered by the medical professionals.
It is a specific antidote that neutralises the snake’s venom and helps counteract its effects.
Supportive care measures may be taken to manage swelling, pain and other symptoms associated with a snake bite.
This can include providing pain medication, intravenous fluids and wound care as well.
Depending on the severity of the snake bite and the individual’s response to treatment, you may be kept under observation by the medical professionals for a period of time.
Medical professionals will assess your condition, administer the necessary interventions, and guide you through the recovery process.
Spotting a snake can be very nerve-wracking, read this article about safety tips when you see one here.
Before preventing infection from a snake bite, the first thing to do is to prevent being bitten by a snake, read more here.
Having the knowledge on which snakes are the most dangerous is highly recommended in case of an emergency, read our article here.
When going outdoors, it is a precautionary measure to take a first aid kit, and this SURVIVAL Snake Bite KIT is exactly what you will need. Find out more here.
How deadly can a snake bite infection be?
Snake bite infections can be serious, and in rare cases, even life-threatening. While the venom is a major concern, infections should not be overlooked.
If a snake bite is not promptly treated, the infection can spread and could cause worse complications such as cellulitis, abscess formation or sepsis.
To minimise the risk of infection, follow the proper wound care guidelines, seek medical help as soon as possible, and adhere to the prescribed antibiotics and treatment plan.
Which snake’s venom is the strongest in the world?
It is challenging to determine a single snake with the strongest venom, but to narrow it down, the king cobra, eastern brown snake, belcher’s sea snake, and inland taipan are all known for their potent venom.
If you see any of these snakes, avoid contact with it regardless of the strength of its venom.
An infection from a snake bite can be very dangerous, and this is one of the many reasons they are feared worldwide.