Indian snake bites
Meenakshi Girish and Nilofer Mujawar explain how to manage bites in primary care
- By: Meenakshi Girish, Nilofer Mujawar
India is home to some of the most poisonous snakes in the world, most of which are found in rural areas where only primary health care facilities are available.1 A snake bite is a medical emergency, and timely treatment can save lives. We focus on what a primary caregiver must do.
Snake bites cause substantial mortality and morbidity in India. Local superstitions, wrong practices, misconceptions regarding management,23 and impractical guidelines impede doctors,4 especially those working in primary health centres.
Of more than 3000 known species of snakes, only about 300 are poisonous and in India of the 216 species only 52 are poisonous. Of these, the cobra, common krait, Russell's viper, and the saw scaled viper are the most common in India.5
The first step is to determine whether the snake was poisonous. Physical examination of the snake is rarely possible, but it can help to plan treatment.6 Do not