Chance encounters between humans and snakes are far too commonplace, especially in cities with poor waste management practices. Here are a few tips to ensure these interactions are harmless to you and the snake:
- Use A Torch At Night: If you are leaving your house outside daylight hours and the area is not well-lit, be sure to carry a flashlight to know where you are stepping foot.
- Ensure Effective Waste Management: Avoid accumulating debris or piles of leaves in the immediate vicinity of your house, as this will attract rodents, which may invite snakes. Always ensure that the wet waste you generate in your home or apartment is not readily accessible by rodents, as this may again increase the chances of encounters with snakes.
- Always Wear Footwear When Stepping Out: When stepping out of the house, even if it is just to your garage or driveway, always wear footwear.
- Sensitize Children And Your Family Members: If children are playing outdoors, advise them to never put their limbs in places where they don't have visibility. For instance, if a ball goes into a bush, encourage children to use a stick instead of placing their hands inside. Most importantly, talk about snakes around you at home with your family! Just like how you'd teach children to look left and right before crossing a road, talk to them about snakes in urban India. The more they know, the safer they are.
In the eventuality of a snakebite in your neighbourhood or vicinity, here is a set of things to do, and more importantly, to NOT do to ensure that you secure the life of the affected person. Remember, snakebite is a completely curable disease!
- Don't Panic: Panic can lead to an increased heart rate, and for a snakebite victim, it can prove fatal, spreading the venom faster through their body.
- Don't Tie A Tourniquet, Cloth Or Rope: This age-old practice, shown in movies and television, could be extremely harmful in most circumstances. Tying anything around the site of a snakebite could result in a rapid onset of systemic envenomation when taken off for treatment.
- Don't Cut Or Burn: An unfortunately common practice, propagated through years of poor messaging on popular platforms is to cut around the site of the bite and 'let the venom flow out'. Cutting open the skin close to the bite does not guarantee the extrication of venom from the body and causes more wounds around an existing one.
- Don't Go To Quacks Or Faith Healers: The only remedy for a snakebite is through antivenom administered in a hospital. Tales of snakebite victims being healed by quacks and faith healers are false and baseless. The majority of venomous snake bites are 'dry' bites, where the snake injects none or a very minute quantity of venom. When these cases are presented to healers, their remedies work since there is no venom in the system to begin with. In cases of severe envenomation, hospitals are the only cure.
- Don't Waste Time: In the event of a snakebite, do not waste time in trying to catch, kill or photograph the snake. The priority is to ensure the affected person gets medical attention, and nothing else.
Here's what you can do, that will help the situation massively:
- Stay Calm: Know that most bites are 'dry' bites with little to no venom. Snakebite is completely curable, hence there is no need to panic.
- Secure Site Of Bite: Ensure the site of the bite is below the heart. For instance, if a bite is on the hand, ensure the arm is placed below the heart. This helps in regulating the flow of venom in the body of the affected person.
- Remove Any Constraining Items: Things like finger rings, bracelets, anklets, watches, bangles etc., essentially act as a tourniquet in the case of a bite at limb extremities. Hence, remove these to ensure there is no rapid onset of systemic envenomation during treatment.
- Immobilise The Limb: Frequent, rapid movement of the affected limb can result in an increased flow of venom through the rest of the body. Use any piece of cloth to create a sling to immobilise the limb. Of course, this is easier to do if the bite is on the arm versus the leg.
- Rush To A Hospital: Find any vehicle available and rush the affected person to the hospital. Don't wait for an ambulance if it is taking too long to arrive. If a person can be taken to a hospital faster through any other means, that should be utilised.
- Take Note Of Signs: On the way to the hospital, make note of any major symptoms, against a timeline. For instance, mention the time of the bite, the time when swelling crossed any major joints, the time when the patient started feeling nausea etc. Present these to the doctor as the information may prove vital in treatment.