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Thursday, October 1, 2020

What is Snakebite Envenoming?

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Envenoming is when an individual is injected with a venom. Venom is an organic toxin or poisonous fluid that is secreted by animals.

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The venom is injected into an individual through biting, stinging or sprayed into the eyes which can lead to death or paralysis of the heart if not attended to with immediate effect.

The animals inject venom in order to defend and protect themselves. There are at least four main classes or toxins that affects an individual when bitten by a venomous snake.

We have the necrotoxins and cytotoxins which kills cells in the body, the neurotoxins which affects the nervous system and the mycotoxin which damages muscles. When they are not treated immediately, it can cause death which makes it a life-threatening situation.

Not all venom acts the same way. There are different venomous animals such as snakes, spiders, scorpions, jelly fish, taipan, cone snail etc. that affects an individual differently, but snakes are known as the well characterized venomous animal.

What is snakebite Envenoming?

Firstly, a snake is a limbless reptile that has no eyelids, jaw or a short tail. This reptile can bite and some of the bites are venomous.

Snakebite Envenoming is a severe disease that affects an individual through a snake bite. There is no exact number of victims and no exact location where someone can be bitten by snake. But record has it that most people affected are the farmers, herders, fishermen, hunters and those at the rural area (poor communities).

Someone bitten from a venomous snake, suffers from a mild or severe tissue damage because of the venom even after being treated.

Symptoms of snakebite envenoming

There are two categories of snakes, and they are venomous and nonvenomous categories, not all snakes are venomous.

Though some venomous snake can be identified through their triangular looking heads due to the protrusion caused by the venom glands behind their jaws while the nonvenomous are mostly with the circle looking heads.

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Venomous snakes are categorized into two groups, namely viper and elapids with different snake specie.

Symptoms depend on the specie of snakes and they include:


This specie belongs to viper family and they are known as the largest venomous snake in the United States. They can be identified as a rattlesnake because of the rings at the end of their tail.

They shake the tail when they are in danger. This specie is found on mountains, deserts, beaches etc. When bitten by rattlesnake, there are symptoms like discoloration, vomiting, weakness, blurred vision etc.

King Cobra

This is one of the venomous snakes also known as hamadryad, belongs to the family of elapids. This king Cobra is peculiar to forests from India southeast Asia. The king cobra is one of the longest of all venomous snakes because it is about 18 feet in length.

Its venoms are neurotoxic that affects the respiratory center in the brain that leads cardiac failure and respiratory arrest and also affects the nervous system that will lead the victim to fall into coma.

When bitten, if not treated immediately, you might suffer from paralysis of lungs and heart that may lead to death. Some symptoms of King Cobra include severe pains, drowsiness etc.

Black mamba

They are mostly Africa indigenous snake, known to be fast and most deadly. Though they may be nervous but highly aggressive when threatened. They live in rocky hills of southern and eastern African.

They are Africans longest snake because they are up to 14 feet in length. Some symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea etc.

Coral Snake

This type of snake has red, yellow and black colour with a bulb like head. They bite when they are stepped on. Symptoms may include headache, discoloration, stomach pain, convulsion etc.

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This is a type of venomous snake. They are most likely to bite when stepped on. They are mostly gold and reddish in colour. Some symptoms of copperhead bite include shock, fall in blood pressure, weakness, discoloration etc.

First aid treatments of snakebite envenoming

Generally, there are first aid treatments for every injury before administering the main treatment as prescribed by the doctors.

The first aid treatment for snakebites includes:

  1. Call for help as soon as possible.
  2. Lie down with the wound placed in a neutral position or below the level of your heart.
  3. Try to stay calm to avoid venom spread.
  4. Remove any jewelry from the affected area if there is any.
  5. Wash the affected area with soap and water before covering with looses, sterile bandage.

Things you shouldn’t do when bitten by a snake

  1. Do not take alcohol as pain killer or any pain relief medication such as aspirin, ibuprofen etc.
  2. Do not try to suck out the venom or bite the wounded area with your mouth. This can be dangerous
  3. Do not apply ice to the affected area.
  4. Do not cover with a tight bandage
  5. Do not cut the affected area with a knife.

Antivenom treatments of Snakebite

Though first aid treatments are very essential for snakebite to reduce the symptoms before taking the person to the hospital.

Antivenom, also known as antivenin, is the only specific antidote that can stop, neutralize or strongly reverse most of the effects of snakebite envenoming when correctly administered.

This antivenin is made up of antibodies, gotten from a host animal (sheep or horse) which has a large, quality of antibodies against different venom components. The antibodies are processed into snake venom for treatment.

 Note that antivenin is given based on the specie of a serious snakebite and if the bite is not serious, the doctor can just clean the wound and give a tetanus vaccine.

Prevention of snakebites

There are some preventive measured you must take to avoid snakebites.

  1. Stay away from forest or any related places where snakes are.
  2. Avoid working at night
  3. Stay alert when climbing rocks
  4. Always wear a thick leather boots when working outside where snake may be.
  5. Try to flee from any seen snake as soon as possible.


Not all snakes are venomous but that does not mean you should not take precautions to avoid snakebites. As a parent, always advice your child to avoid different locations of snakes because snakebite venom affects young ones because of their smaller body mass. Don’t forget to make it known to your doctor if you are allergic to any vaccine before Antivenin is recommended.

Snakebite Envenoming
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Disclaimer: This article is purely informative & educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

Ehikioya Hope
making my mark in the digital world, one post at a time.
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