Snakebite envenomings are potentially life-threatening diseases caused by toxins contained in the venom injected into a bite by a poisonous snake. Envenom is generally the dried remains of venom injected into an animal, such as a dog, and is usually not present in a live snake. Envenom may be fatal if large doses are ingested, but there are many ways to avoid or protect against this type of poisoning. Snakebite envenomings can also be caused from having toxic snakes sprayed into your eyes accidentally by certain breeds of snakes which are able to spit poison as a defense mechanism.
This type of poisoning is particularly dangerous because it often results in death from asphyxiation (not breathing). Although this is the most common cause of death for snakebites, it should not be disregarded. The effects of snakebite envenoming include respiratory failure, wasting of muscles and other tissues, and shock. The result of asphyxia is often death from lack of oxygen combined with cardiac failure. If this happens, then the person would not survive another two hours.
There are many documented cases of snakebite envenoming but very few cases of actual bites or envenomings. The most common method of delivery of envenom is through a wound in the skin, but this has been found to be ineffective in many cases. Snakes generally do not have the capacity to inject their venom in wounds without causing scarring, and attempts to do so can result in a loss of oxygen to the victim. Many victims of snakebites are left with lasting scars of the snakebite.
Because of these health systems’ failure to provide effective treatment to snakebites, the mortality rate for snakebite envenoming runs into the thousands. Sadly, because there have been no deaths from snakebite envenoming recorded in recent years, it is likely that many more people will die from the disease in the future. Without prompt medical care and the use of effective treatment methods, the disease can spread rapidly to other parts of the body, including the lungs, heart, brain, and central nervous system. This can ultimately lead to death.
To prevent snakebite envenoming, the only way to prevent a situation where dangerous snakes are released into the community is to eradicate them. However, eradication does not always work. Some snakes may be released into the environment again, possibly leading to a resurgence of snakebite envenoming. Snakebite envenoming also occurs due to irresponsible behaviour of snake owners, careless disposal of contaminated waste, and poor epidemiological management. These incidents require immediate attention from local health authorities and law enforcement authorities. Public education is also an important tool in preventing snakebite envenoming.
If you have been bitten by a snake and suspect you might be at risk for snakebite envenoming, you should contact your doctor and immediately contact your local health authorities. Your doctor will conduct an assessment of your situation and recommend the best course of action. Based on your assessment, the physician will then determine if you require antivenoms, and if so, which types of antivenoms are best to provide the best clinical and survival benefit.