FIRST AID in
DO NOT INJECT ANTIVENOM.
Unless you are hours away from
a physician or medical facility anti-venom should not be injected by the
layperson. Anti-venom is refined from horse serum and a percentage of
people are highly allergic to it. Anaphylactic shock WILL kill
your patient - whereas the patient stands a good chance of surviving the
bite without anti-venom. Anti-venom is best left to the professionals in a
proper facility where life-support systems are available.
normally be unnecessary for the layperson to use anti-venom anywhere
within the Peninsula.
DO NOT CUT INTO THE BITE
All you will probably do is
assist the venom to spread more rapidly.
DO NOT SUCK ON THE BITE
If you have cuts in your mouth
there will be two patients where there was one. If you have a suction
device it may be applied or you can attempt sucking through a dental dam -
should you have one handy.
DO NOT APPLY ELECTRICAL SHOCK
TO THE PATIENT
A myth has grown up that application of shock or a stun gun is of
assistance. This is a pure myth without any basis in fact whatsoever. You
are more likely to kill than cure using this method.
DO NOT GIVE DRUGS OR
INTOXICANTS TO THE PATIENT
Unless advised by a medical practitioner. Application
of these substances make diagnosis far more difficult once you arrive at
DO NOT RUB TOPICAL SUBSTANCES
INTO THE WOUND
You may clean the wound with a little mild disinfectant and dress
it lightly with something like Betadine ointment - but preferably leave it
DO NOT APPLY A TOURNIQUET
You are likely to do far more
damage with the tourniquet than without.
DO NOT APPLY ICE OR HEAT TO
is of any use - but both may harm.
Shock - How to Recognise and Treat
is a condition in which the circulatory system fails to circulate blood
throughout the body properly. It is a progressive deteriorating condition that
can be fatal. It is present to some degree in ALL physical trauma Shock CAN
kill. The first indication that a person is going into shock is restlessness or
Some of the symptoms of shock are:
Heavy or difficult breathing
Racing or Pounding heartbeat
Rapid, weak pulse
Pale or bluish skin
Drowsiness or unconsciousness.
it is impossible to care for shock by first-aid alone, you can take measures
that could be life-saving. First-Aid Treatment for shock is:
Reassure the victim and keep
him/her calm. Help them rest comfortably (pain can intensify the body's
stress, which accelerates shock).
Have the victim lie down.
Keeping them comfortable is the key.
Keep your patient from
becoming overheated or chilled. If a source of cold water is nearby, wet a
cloth and wash their face regularly and lie them in the shade. If it is a
cold day, wrap them in a blanket.
If you sense that the victim
is slipping into unconsciousness, take measures to prevent this from
Above all, keep the victim
comfortable! Strike up a conversation with them and continue to reassure
Once shock sets in, the
victim's condition will continue to deteriorate, so getting help or
getting the victim to help ASAP is the most important thing.
The first aid of choice, in snakebite, is the pressure
of the pressure bandage is to immobilise the limb and restrict the flow in the
lymphatic system. This will slow the transport of the venom dramatically giving
you the few hours extra to transport the patient to a well-equipped facility
where medical practitioners can take over. A word of advice - many medical men
have never seen or treated snakebite. It is fairly rare. Telephone your nearest
Poison Centre, University or Snake Park. They usually are able to give advice
on physicians with experience of handling snake envenomation. You may ask the
treating physician to consult with such a person. Application of the pressure
bandage: Get the victim to lie down immediately. Relax and reassure them. Keep
calm yourself - you will have enough time. Talk soothingly and be confident.
Using a crêpe bandage (or torn up strips of material) bandage the bitten limb.
Start at the bite site and work upwards. Do not remove clothes as the movement
required will assist the venom to spread. Wrap the limb as tightly as you would
for a sprain. Firm, but do not cut off the blood supply. Apply a splint to the
limb to immobilise it. Avoid massaging or rubbing the bite area. Do not remove
the pressure bandage until medical personnel are ready to start treatment.
A VICTIM OF A PUFFADDER BITE TO THE ANKLE
IS MADE TO LIE DOWN IMMEDIATELY
THE WIDE CREPE BANDAGE IS
BOUND AS TIGHTLY AS FOR A SPRAIN
A SPLINT IS APPLIED
TO THE PRESSURE-BANDAGED LIMB
THE LEG IS NOW
COMPLETELY IMMOBILISED BY THE SPLINT
A PRESSURE BANDAGE,
STARTING AT THE BITE SITE, IS BEGUN
THE BANDAGE IS TAKEN
AS HIGH UP THE LIMB AS POSSIBLE
THE SPLINT IS BOUND TO THE LIMB
SO AS TO IMMOBILISE IT COMPLETELY
THE PATIENT IS NOW READY
TO BE TRANSPORTED TO A HOSPITAL
Some things to do
Make a note of the time the
bite occurred. This will help physicians to check on the progress of the
Remove constricting jewelry.
Rapid swelling may make such items as rings and bracelets into objects of
If possible phone ahead and
clearly explain to the hospital that a possible snakebite case is on the
way. If a positive identification of the snake can be made, make sure they
know what to expect.
Be prepared to render
artificial respiration in the case of a cobra bite. A dangerous sign of
impending lung paralysis is when the victim cannot blow out a match held
at arms length. The venom does not kill - the inability to breathe is what
Be prepared to keep the
airways open and make sure the patient does not drown on his own saliva.
Keep the patient as immobile
as possible and transport to a hospital.
Keep in mind that shock is
probably present in all snakebite cases, whether from venomous or
non-venomous species. Shock can kill even more rapidly than snake venom.
Acquaint yourself with the symptoms of shock. Be prepared to deal with
shock symptoms in ANY snakebite victim. Even those bitten
by non-venomous species. People have died of such bites in the past.
MEET THE VENOMOUS
SNAKES OF THE PENINSULA
Naja Nivea - Cape Cobra, Geelkapel,
They are said to be more aggressive
during the mating season - which is usually from September to October. A bite from a Cape Cobra constitutes a grave medical
emergency. Its venom is as potent as a Black Mamba's - but
it injects less of it. Transport the patient as rapidly as possible to a
medical facility after pressure bandaging. Be prepared to support breathing.
Bitis Arietans - Puff adder, Pofadder
The venom is potently cytotoxic
and a bite from it is a fairly serious medical emergency. It may take hours
before symptoms start to develop. Pressure bandage and transport patient to the
nearest large medical facility.
Dispholidus Typus – Boomslang
The venom is dangerously
haemotoxic and destroys the coagulant properties of the blood.