Animal Bites

When people think of the dangers of animals bites they tend to think of someone being bitten by a poisonous animal normally a snake but all animal bites can be dangerous. Even if a bite contains no venom or venom not dangerous to humans in a survival situation there is a high risk of the bite becoming infected due to bacteria on the animal’s teeth, the most extreme example being that of the Komodo dragon who bite as well as being extremely powerful carried a lethal cocktail of bacteria which frequently causes the death of the victim. In many areas of the world many canines and other mammals may carry the rabies virus, a vaccination does exist but it can be painful to receive and the protection it offers is far from 100%.

Animal toxins are some of the most dangerous chemical compounds known to man and vary enormously in effect, from being as painful and as relatively harmless as a bee sting to having a high chance of killing or paralysing the victim. An individual’s reaction to a toxin can also vary greatly depending on size, age and general health of the victim. For example the UK has only one indigenous poisonous snake, the adder, the The Adderbite from which is very painful but not normally dangerous, yet the same bite delivered to a child or an adult with a heart condition becomes potentially fatal. Very few poisonous animals intend to bite a human unless cornered , disturbed or threatened, if you encounter a snake , scorpion or other such animal , give it space and back away slowly in a quiet manner. When swimming a snorkel will help your vision and light sandals will protect your feet from poisonous animals you may step on, hidden in the sand or muck.  The vast majority of poisonous animals are found in hotter climates with Australia having more poisonous species than any other continent. Out of the water, spiders, snakes, scorpions are the biggest risk, although some poisonous mammals and lizards do exist. The problem tends to be not from the larger species but the smaller ones, the bigger the creature generally (but not always) the weaker the venom is, for example the deadly and infamous Black Widow spider is tiny compared to large and relatively harmless bird eating spiders. Also small creatures can be easily over looked, trod on or even crawl into shoes when you are sleeping.  General rules are wear good strong foot wear, check  foot wear and bedding before putting on or getting into and don’t leave backpacks unattended on the ground in areas of risk. Finally when lifting rocks and bushes etc wear strong gloves or better still use a stick to probe the area.

Most people fear snake bites, and there are some aggressive and very dangerous species, sea snakes are known to have particularly powerful venom and nearly all snakes can and do swim. In Africa the Spitting Cobra is greatly feared as it will spray its venom at the eyes of its victim and is responsible for many deaths and serious injuries each year as well as the deaths of livestock and pet animals. If someone has been sprayed by venom wash the eyes out immediately with clean water. Snake venoms can work in variety of ways some affect the central nervous system others the respiratory system. If someone is bitten it is important to get a good description of the animal which bit them as a log as it is safe to do so. This will enable medical staff to quickly identify the correct anti venom needed. A venomous snake may not always inject venom in a bite but swelling around the wound indicates venom was injected. A bite from a non poisonous snake will leave a series of small wounds shaped almost like a letter ‘M’. The bite from a poisonous snake will generally leave two rows of small wounds with twin distinctive bigger puncture wounds at the top; although some species can choose to just use a single fang in a bite. Once someone has been bitten it is vital they are evacuated as soon as possible, keep them calm and still as this will slow the heartbeat and therefore slow the movement of the toxin through their system, there is little treatment you can do without the right anti venom, the idea of sucking the venom from the wound seen in Hollywood movies is rubbish and may result the first aider getting a mouthful of bacteria or a mild dose of venom or at best risk infecting the wound. If the bite is in a limb tying a belt or cloth tightly further up the limb will also slow blood flow but make sure it isn’t too tight by checking the victim’s fingers for circulation regularly. Raising the limb above the heart to reduce blood flow can also be useful. Below is a list of poisonous snake types by region (a generalised list)
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