SNAKES, SNAKE BITE AND FIRST AID

Should we be afraid of all snakes ? The answer is NO. India has roughly 270 species of snakes ,  out of which only 70 are highly venomous. Out of these 70, only 4 snakes are potentially lethal to humans as they live around human settlements, especially farms and fields. As these four species are responsible for maximum deaths in the country,  they are called the Big Four . They are Spectacled Cobra , Russell Viper , Saw Scaled Viper and Krait. The venom of the first two acts on the nervous system and that of the last two on the blood and the blood vessels.

Spectacled Cobra ,  Naag is the most common and feared venomous snake in Rajasthan. It can be easily identified by its hood and spectacles or adjoining rounded marks seen on the back side of the hood . In Rajasthan adult cobras are very dark or black in colour and lack the hood marks. So they are sometimes called Black Cobra. They feed mainly on large rodents, frogs,birds , small mammals,  eggs and other venomous snakes. They also eat their own species. They are highly adaptive and can be found in forests , hills, fields and houses in search of food .

Russell’s viper, CHITTI ,  is the second kind of poisonous snake. It can easily be identified by its whitish golden color, triangular head, big nostrils and stout body with keeled scales which makes it different from the non-poisonous Indian rock python or AJGAR.  These two species are often confused by the farmers as they show common habitats namely wheat fields , open drylands , cave cracks and rocky regions . It is also called Chain viper because of its chain like back pattern. It feeds mainly on rodents ,lizards,  frogs and small mammals. It has large fangs  at the sides of its mouth that are present since birth. Its average length is 4 feet and maximum length 6 feet.

Saw Scaled Viper FURSA is the third kind of venomous snake. It is a less common nocturnal species. It is relatively small.The head is relatively small and is short, wide,  pear-shaped and distinct from the neck. The snout is short and rounded while the eyes are relatively large.The body is moderately slender and cylindrical. The dorsal scales are mostly keeled threat display wihch involve forming a series of parallel C -shaped coils and rubbing them together produces a sizzling sound,  rather like water on a hot plate.  As they become more agitated,  the production of this sound becomes faster and louder. Their diet is extremely varied and includes items like spiders,  scorpions,  locusts, small lizards and rodents. Bite cases are reported at night when people accidentally step on the snake barefooted.

Common Krait , KARAT , is the fourth  species of poisonous snakes.  It is dark blue in colour with even bars on the body. It has round black pupils and the neck is not distinguished . The body is cylindrical with tapering short tail. It is often confused with non – venomous common wolf snake.  But the head of the wolf snake is large and triangular but the body patterns are the same. Kraits are nocturnal reptiles and become active only at night.  Their habitat range is very wide. They are found in fields and low scrub jungle as well as inhabited areas . It resides in termite mounds, brick piles,  rat holes and even inside houses.  It is frequently found in water or near water sources . It feeds mainly on mice, lizards, toads and other rodents.  Its young one feed on arthropods and smaller snakes of other or the same species .Krait bite cases usually occur at night as it is nocturnal in nature.

IDENTIFICATION OF BITE

 Venomous snakes have only two fangs. So the victim will have a typical snake bite mark of just two fangs that may pierce the skin quite deep. But a non venomous snake has a set of teeth in both upper and lower jaws. So it is likely to leave a lot of puncture marks on the skin. Then it is important to identify the type of venom.

FIRST AID 

Reassure the patient, make him calm. Fear and panic result in higher pulse rate and therefore quicken the spreading of poison if any is present.  Most of the snakes are harmless but can also bite and generally leave the same marks as poisonous bites. Even poisonous snakes do not always inject poison if its reason for biting someone is self-defense. Nowadays the treatment of snake bite is so effective that they are seldom fatal.

The wounds should be washed and cleaned with soap water and covered to avoid further infection. Do not try to extract any poison by putting pressure on the area.

Remove all rings,  bracelets etc. from the bitten place as further swelling will increase the pain. Immobilize the limb in a splint or sling as any movement or muscle contraction will facilitate the venom absorption. Apply a pressure bandage but it should not be too tight and should be loose enough so that a finger can slide in . In case of viper bite do not tie pressure bandage. Keep the stricken limb below the level of the heart. Never give any painkilling medication as most of them have a thinning effect on the blood and thereby increase the flow of blood. The victim is not to be taken to a Devra or Tantrik but should be rushed to hospital.

We should not try to kill the snake as it may be dangerous.  if already killed, take it to the hospital so that it can be identified and treated in the proper way.

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