I recently got a question about snake bite and since many people are hiking during the summer I thought I would write a post on the topic. I remember going on a beautiful hike in Arizona, in the Sedona area, which is so spectacular. While we were walking, my niece who was with us and who lived in Phoenix, kept bringing up the topic of rattlesnakes. Being the youngest, needless to say that we made fun of her for being such a chicken … until we almost stepped into a snake pit. I often give tips about homeopathy on this blog but unfortunately, there is nothing that homeopathy can do as far as the venom. There are some homeopathic medicines that you can take for the bite itself and that I will present at the end of this post. The best thing to do is to go to the closest ER as fast as possible!
So here are some interesting facts and recommendations regarding a potential snake ”encounter”:
If you are suspecting snakes might be present:
- Carefully check behind rocks or pieces of wood using a stick.
- Wear closed shoes (boots would be best) and long pants.
- Signal your presence: My granddad used to tell us kids that snakes are deaf but can detect vibrations. So we had to make heavy steps while walking in the woods. I think it is still a valid piece of advice and it will either scare them away or make them do a noise that will indicate their location.
- Snakes usually don’t bite unless they feel threatened or are stepped on.
- Be sure to keep pets away from snakes and to teach children how to behave.
When in the presence of a snake:
- If you find a snake, it is best to leave it alone. Snakes are useful in helping to maintain the rodent population down, so it is best not to kill them unless absolutely necessary.
- back up slowly
- If you must kill a snake, the easiest way is to use a long-handled hoe to strike it behind the head.
- Keep in mind that even a dead snake can be dangerous as its biting reflex remains intact and the venom stays active for a long time.
We can distinguish two types of treatment: the etiological treatment, which aims to neutralize the venom, and the symptomatic treatment, which aims to reduce clinical signs that accompany the envenomation.
They are three levels of intervention: site of the bite (first aid), emergency treatment, and intensive care for severe cases ( resuscitation and treatment of complications).
A - First aid
- Avoid panic. It would only make the situation worse as any kind of agitation or rapid movement would speed up the propagation of the venom.
- For the same reason, it is important to immobilize the limb with a bandage that should not be too tight (you can even use a scarf).
- Remove any piece of jewelry such as rings and bracelet before swelling occurs.
- If you have a first aid kit, clean the area of the bite.
- Avoid unsafe acts such as burning the wound with a flame or a hot object, direct application of ice or harsh chemicals, incisions. These gestures, mostly useless, are always dangerous.
- Finally, proceed as quickly as possible to evacuate the patient to the nearest ER.
B – Emergency Treatment
- Upon arrival at the ER, the wound will be disinfected thoroughly.
- If envenomation is confirmed by questioning and clinical examination, and after assessing the gravity of the situation, the patient might receive serotherapy: the antivenom should be administered intravenously as early as possible. The dosage depends on the amount of venom inoculated, which is obviously never known but can be evaluated by clinical symptoms. Although the trend is to use polyvalent antivenoms (active against the venoms of several kinds of snake species), it helps to know which type of snake is responsible for the bite. If it is safe to do or if the snake is dead, taking a picture seems a good idea and safer to do than carrying the snake with you, especially if you are impressionable!
- Symptomatic treatment can consist of analgesic, anti-inflammatory (that does not belong to the aspirin family because it can aggravate a hemorrhagic syndrome), a mild sedative and an antihistamine.
- Increased water intake through drinking or infusion to boost diuresis and therefore increasing the elimination of the toxins though urine.
C – Critical Care
- Continuation of serotherapy if necessary.
- If there is a hemorrhagic syndrome and/or a severe anemia, treatment by blood transfusion or blood products only after the venom has been completely eliminated of by the antivenom.
- Artificial respiration in case of asphyxia due to the paralysis of the respiratory muscles (some cobras cause it).
- Treatment of possible complications (internal bleeding, stroke, myocardial infarction, renal failure, extensive necrosis of a limb)
Homeopathic medicines for the snakebite itself:
Ledum palustre 6C: 5 pellets every hour for a few hours. Ledum is typical of a deep wound made by a sharp object and that do not bleed (as opposed to a cut).
Hypericum 6C: 5 pellets 3 times a day. This will minimize the pain related to nerve damage.