Locals have been advised to be on the lookout and be extra vigilant while being outdoors with family and friends as snakebite season has arrived.
According to the Western Cape Health Department, snakebite season takes place from October through to April when temperatures rise, and snakes usually become more active as a result of the weather.
Most snakes in our country are harmless, however, the Western Cape Poison Helpline has urged Capetonians to watch their step when being outdoors.
A recent video shared by @vuurtoring has been trending on Twitter, and shows two snakes on Lion’s Head near a popular trail where many hikers trek.
— vuurtoring (@vuurtoring) October 4, 2021
In Cape Town, the most common venomous snakes to look out for are the Cape Cobra, Puff Adder, and Boomslang. The Mole Snake should also not be taken lightly – they’re not venomous but they can deliver a painful bite that may require stitches, according to Blouberg Snake Rescue.
Cape Cobras have a predominantly neurotoxic venom that causes gradual paralysis, Puff Adders have a cytotoxic venom that causes tissue damage, and the Boomslang has a haemotoxic venom that causes bleeding issues. With any snakebite incident, it’s best to get to a hospital ASAP. The amount of time it takes before symptoms present itself can differ based on the person’s age, and the snake species amongst other factors.
That being said, death from a snakebite is quite rare in South Africa with only about 12 people per year. Snakes aren’t aggressive creatures and they only bite when they are provoked, afraid, feeling unsafe or forced to act in self-defence.
Here’s a list of snakes to be on the lookout for, along with their different types of venom:
Arrive Alive has listed the different types of venom and how it could affect humans:
This type of venom affects the clotting factors in blood, resulting in haemorrhaging due to the blood not being able to form blood clots.
This is the most dangerous type of venom. The venom affects the ability of the body’s nerves and could result in paralysis. This also causes respiratory failure due to the lungs not being able to receive nerves impulses from the brains respiratory centre.
This venom destroys cells near the bite itself, could cause swelling and is a medical emergency that causes crush syndrome and occlude blood flow past the affected area. These bites are not always fatal if medical help is received in time, but the bite is said to be painful and is open to infections.
Please note, there are no home remedies that help with snakebites. The only thing that will help a patient bitten by a venomous snake is hospital treatment.
How to treat a snake bite:
Snake bites are always different and it’s best to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
If you are on a hike or out on a picnic and you get bitten, here are some tips to follow for your own safety:
- Always remain calm as panicking increases the victim’s heart rate which allows the venom to spread faster in the body.
- Limit any form of activity that could also increase your heart rate. Don’t run, walk or pace up and down.
- It’s advisable to let someone else drive you to the nearest hospital.
What shouldn’t you do?
- Don’t wait for the symptoms to worsen before seeking medical help.
- Don’t use a band or belt to tie tightly around the bitten area as it can cause complications.
- Don’t cut the bite area to make it bleed the venom out.
- Don’t suck the venom out of the wound.
- Don’t apply heat or any cold packs to the bitten area.
How could you avoid being bitten by a snake?
- If you are hiking or spending a day in a wilderness area, stick to a path and avoid grassy or bushy areas where many snakes hide.
- Be careful to not pick up objects where a snake may be hiding under. An example of these are logs for a camp fire.
- Don’t try to catch a snake with a stick as many snakes can strike two-thirds of their body length when resting.
It’s best to avoid any contact with snakes as their encounters are inevitable. Snakes also try their best to avoid contact with humans, but if bitten, you should always seek medical help at all times.
If possible to do safely, you can take a photo of the snake with your cellphone from a distance – without trying to capture it. You should also call Johan Marais on 082 494 2039 – he will be able to help the doctors identify the species and correct course of treatment based on the symptoms.
If you keep the free https://www.snakebiteapp.co.za/ app on your phone, it will be able to provide you with the contact details for nearby hospitals as well as a summary of snakebite first aid instructions.