Source: | Dr. Olasemo Ayodeji MaOzi, Nigeria

                                                        E-mail: [email protected]

As a way of introduction; there are about 3700 known species of snakes and only 15% is considered dangerous to humans (who cares, all of them look dangerous to me).

I would not want to bore you with details of how to recognize poisonous snakes (as if we’ll wait to inspect them).

Do you know, Snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica?

Snake bites can be life threatening. The venom affects the body in different ways:

Cytolytic – breaks down cells and tissues.

Hematotoxic – damage blood vessels, makes it difficult for blood to clot and non-stop bleeding ensues.

Myotoxic – break down muscle, could cause kidney damage.

Neurotoxic – disrupts nerves, eyelids close, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, difficulty in breathing.


Since reporting snake bite is not mandatory in most part of the world, there is no precise record on its frequency. Many people who survive bites have permanent tissue damage caused by venom, leading to disability.

As at 2007, the incidence of snake bite envenomation on Sub-Sahara West Africa was placed at an high estimate of 94 per 100,000 population (i.e 94 out of every 100,000 individuals get bitten by a snake) and 295,000 incidence per year.

Snake bite related deaths, 6 per 100,000 (i.e 6 people out of every 100000 individuals die from snakebites) and about 18700 per year (snake bite is no joke).

While some may conclude based on the numbers that the occurrence is low, let us bare in mind that these are lives we are talking about and saving 1 life can make a significant impact.


Snake bites are usually self- diagnosable. Symptoms are usually two puncture wounds, redness, swelling, severe pain at the area.

If bitten by a snake, Do the following:

– Call for help.

– Try and be relaxed or get the individual to be relaxed (elevated heart rate increases the speed of venom circulation in the body).

– Try (If you can) to remember color and shape of the snake.

– Lay or sit with bite site below the level of the heart.

– Remove any rings or constricting items; the affected area may swell.

– Cover bite site with clean dry dressing.

– Paracetamol may be given for pain.

– If you are the helper on the scene, closely monitor airways and breathing and be ready to resuscitate.


– Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it.

– Don’t wait for symptoms to appear before you go to the hospital.

– Do not tourniquet the affected part ( do not tie, most people end up cutting off blood supply to the distal portion).

– Do not slash the wound with a knife.

– Do not suck out venom.


Avoid traditional, unsafe forms of first aid.

Thank you for your time

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