A few days ago, due to the incessant rains, a snake entered the house of 18-year-old Tehseem Khan and bit her while she was watching television.
Upon hearing her daughter’s scream, Sultana rushed to save Tehseem. Knowing that the snake had to be identified to administer the anti-venom, the daring mother caught hold of the snake but got bitten herself while doing so.
Sultana took her daughter to the nearest clinic where they were told to go to Sion hospital.
The dean of Sion Hospital, Dr Praveen Ingale told The Asian Age, “Since the woman brought the snake to the hospital, it helped us identify the venom type and accordingly administer immediate medical treatment.”
The doctors identified the snake as Russell’s Viper, a species of venomous snake in the family Viperidae of venomous Old World Vipers.
Both patients are stable and out of danger; we gave them two to three vials of injections of anti-venom, and they are recuperating at the hospital,” added Ingale.
Sultana and Tehseen are now out of danger, but, in hindsight, how safe was it for them to carry the venomous snake from their house to the clinic and then the hospital?
What if the snake had gotten out of Sultana’s hand and hurt other citizens or, for that matter, even the driver of the cab?
Not every person is aware of what to do in such cases, and Sultana was lucky to have escaped a more severe repercussion.
If we go by the statistics, then 50,000 Indians are killed every year from snake bites according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO has termed snakebites as a neglected tropical disease and the reasons vary from delayed visit to the doctor, insufficient medicare to unavailability of anti-venom injections.
In India, there are close to 2.8 million snakebite cases reported annually and around 90 per cent of the bites are caused by one of the “big four” varieties – Common Krait, Indian Cobra, Russell’s Viper and Saw Scaled Viper.
The Better India spoke to Humane Society International (HSI) India to understand the steps one can or not take post a snake bite.
Snake bites are a neglected issue. The lives of people can be saved by education and teaching communities to live in harmony with snakes. HSI is committed to making India a snakebite-death free country, Alokparna Sengupta Managing Director, HSI India tells TBI.
Here’s what you can do:
- Stay calm and reassure the victim to avoid panic and rash or illogical decisions.
- Remove any constraining items like bangles, or watches etc. from the body.
- Keep the bitten limb still to allow the injured area to heal. It can also help reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.
- Visit the nearest hospital immediately
- Take note of signs of the victim on the way to the hospital and inform the doctor about it.
- Don’t tie a tourniquet or ligature
- Don’t administer painkillers
- Don’t allow consumption of alcohol, coffee or tea
- Don’t wash or cut the wound
- Don’t attempt to suck the venom out
- Don’t try to catch or kill the snake
As per HSI, taking snakes to the hospital is not essential. The anti-venom is now polyvalent anti-venom which can be used for the four big species of venomous snakes. So doctors no longer need to know what species of snake bit a person.
Also, here is a step-by-step video by Madras Crocodile Bank Trust on what to do in case of a snakebite emergency:
If you want to know more about snake bites, HSI India is conducting a live Q&A session on 14 July.
HSI India can be contacted here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)