Snakebite first aid: Essential dos and don’ts

Snakebite, a reportedly common occurrence in the tropical regions of the world, was recognised as the highest-priority neglected tropical disease by World Health Organization (WHO) in 2017. According to the WHO, the number of people bitten by snakes each year globally could be as high as 5.4 million (54 lakh). The estimates also show that 81,000 to 1,38,000 people around the world die each year from snakebite.

While many snakes are non-venomous, when bitten by a snake, the plan of action should always begin with immediate medical intervention.

What is snake venom?

Snake venom is actually a salivary secretion that is used for killing and digesting a prey. Essentially, there are two kinds of snake venom — one that affects the nerves (cobra venom, for example) and the other that affects the blood (that of vipers).

Here are some remedial measures that you can take in case of a snake bite as per, a platform that campaigns for snakebite awareness.

Call ambulance

Approach a medical professional at the earliest and try to describe the snake’s appearance as accurately as possible. This will help them plan the next course of action. Even if the snake bite was not venomous, the person could be at risk of a bacterial infection, and/or tetanus.

Immobolise the victim

Remove belt, jewellery, watch, rings etc. as the bitten area may swell.

snakebite Here’s what to do when bitten by a snake (Source:

On the stretcher

Transport the victim lying on left side, right leg bent and hand supporting the face. Patient will breathe better and not choke on vomit.

At the hospital

Tourniquet’s are harmful if tied very tight and can lead to gangrene, Priyanka Kadam, president and founder, told “But if snakebite patients arrive at the hospital with tourniquet on, doctors should first assess the condition of the patient and look for signs of envenoming. In case patient has any of the symptoms like progressive swelling at the bite site, is nauseous, has drooping eyelids (ptosis), has difficulty in breathing, sore throat, stomach pain, head is flipping on the side (broken neck syndrome) or their 20WBCT (whole blood clotting test) has come out not clotted, the doctor should start antivenom along with supportive drugs and only then remove the tourniquet very slowly,” she said.


This is because if the patient is envenomed, and has presented with tight tourniquet, chances of them collapsing with sudden gush of venom to the vital organs once tourniquet is removed, are high. “Doctors should keep all patients of snakebite under observation for at least 24 hours. Many times, people bring along living or dead snakes for identification. Instead, communities must be counselled to click a clear picture from afar of the head and full body. A live or dead snake can be equally dangerous. There have been reported deaths even from bites from a dead snake,” she informed.


*Do not panic. Snakebite is a treatable condition.
*Say no to faith healing. Do not try to kill or capture the snake.
*Do not cut or suck the bite area.
*Do not tie a tourniquet, apply ice or massage the bitten area as it causes further damage.
*Do not self-medicate or apply any herbs or spices. Nothing helps.


How to avoid snakebites?

*Wear closed pair of shoes while going out.
*Always use a torch at night. Look where you put your hand or foot.
*Avoid sleeping on the floor and use a well tucked mosquito net.
*Keep home and surroundings clean and clutter-free. Control rodent population.
*Create awareness in communities. Help prevent snakebite.

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