Initial prehospital management of snake-bite

  • Before leaving, check that the emergency telephone number is stored in your phone
  • In the case of a snake bite, immobilize the patient and keep them calm and call the emergency number immediately, do not delay. If alone, keep calm and do not continue cycling, sit down alert a fellow rider and ask them to phone the emergency number and ask them not to leave you until help arrives. The person phoning may have to ride to a higher point for cell phone signal. If you have a GPS unit get a GPS co-ordinate of the snake bite victim to aid with recovery
  • Lie down, keep calm and keep hydrated
  • Do not suck the bite site – Do not apply a tourniquet
  • Comforting and reassuring the patient is a very important part of the first aid treatment.
  • Try to get a good description of the snake
  • Paramedics will have the necessary equipment to treat snake bites and will transfer the patient to Port Elizabeth Hospital.

Notes: In most cases, victims have a couple of hours before serious life-threatening symptoms manifest themselves. ONLY in suspected neurotoxic bites (Cape cobra), it is recommended that you apply a wide crepe bandage (or other material) firmly above the bite site (as tightly as for a sprained ankle) to slow the spread of venom to vital organs like the heart and lungs. The life threatening neurotoxic effects of a Cape Cobra bites (such as difficulty in breathing) develop within 30 min to 4 hours. If you are more than 2 hrs away from medical assistance, respiratory support (e.g. mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) may be necessary. The life threatening effects of a cytotoxic snake bite (e.g. puff adder) develop late (6-24 hours). Wait for medical assistance to arrive.

Port Elizabeth – Livingston Hospital Paediatric Department
Tel: 041 405-2141 (24 hours), 041 405-9111 (24 hours)

NETCARE 911 – 24-hour toll-free poison information hotline countrywide – 0800 333 444