If you live in a country with venomous snakes or are travelling to one, here are a few tips to avoid being bitten.
– Do not provoke –
Snakes usually will not attack unless they feel threatened. In the bush, wear sturdy leather shoes and stomp heavily when walking, striking with a stick on the ground in front of you to warn any reptiles you are coming — they will most likely just slither away.
Most strikes occur when snakes feel cornered or under threat, or when people accidentally step on them.
– Be alert and prepared –
Outside, have a good look around you for snakes that may hang from tree branches or swim in water, and be careful when turning over rocks or other objects. And remember: snakes are evolved to be well-camouflaged in their environment, whether it be the desert, forest or bush.
Thick, protective gloves are recommended for gardening and farming.
Carry a lamp at night.
Birds can help too: Many species possess an alarm cry to alert others of hidden danger.
Inside, check your bed and dark corners — snakes can enter homes in pursuit of prey, heat or water.
The neater your home, the more likely you will spot an out-of-place snake. A mosquito net around your bed can be an effective snake repellent.
– Once bitten –
If you or someone else is bitten, try and remember the colour and shape of the snake, and seek immediate medical care at a clinic or hospital.
Remove any bracelets, rings or watches that may hamper blood flow in case of swelling.
Do NOT try and catch the snake, apply a tourniquet, cut the wound, suck out the venom, or drink alcohol or coffee.
Also do not seek to inject your own antivenom, which can induce a violent allergic reaction and needs to be administered in a professional environment with adrenaline and oxygen on hand.
Sources: Doctors Without Borders, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Action International, Bio-Ken research centre.