Snakes

Latest update: - Authors: Mieke Croughs, Ula Maniewski-Kelner

Most snakes are not poisonous and will not attack if they are left in peace.

A bite by a poisonous snake can cause release of the poison in the body, but this is not always the case. This is referred to as a dry bite.

Some snakes spit venom. This is dangerous if it comes into contact with the mucous membranes, such as the eyes or mouth.

Snakes live mainly in rural areas, but in some countries - such as India - there is also a risk in cities. The risk of snakebites is generally low for travellers.

Poisonous bites can cause local pain, swelling or blisters, but can also cause generalised symptoms like anxiety, dizziness, vomiting, hyperventilation, low blood pressure, shock, paralysis or severe bleeding. This can result in death if left untreated.

Risk areas

Poisonous snakes  occur all over the world, with the exception of Chili, Hawaii, Madagascar, New Caledonia and New Zealand.

The risk of poisonous snakebites is highest in Southern Asia, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Poisonous sea snakes  are only found in the coastal regions of Asia and Australia. 

Prevention

Be careful

Wear sturdy, high-fitting shoes. 

Stay on the footpaths, so that you can easily spot any snakes. 

Take a flashlight with you when walking outside at night. 

Make plenty of noise. Stamp your feet when walking or hit the ground with a stick.

Do not touch a dead snake.The bite reflex is still present for more than an hour after death, even after being beheaded.

Avoid rubbish

Keep your house and surroundings clean. Rubbish attracts rats, which in turn attract snakes.

Preparation

Take a wide elastic bandagewith you when travelling, at least 15 cm wide. 

Take photographs with you of snakes that are found in that region, so that you know which snake has bitten you.

In case of symptoms

Have you been bitten by a snake?

  • Stay calm and try to move the limb as little as possible to avoid further spread of the poison.
  • Go to a safe place.
  • Firmly wrap a minimum 15 cm wide elastic bandage around the limb to immobilise it, making sure that the bandage is not too tight. The bandage should not feel pinched.
  • Take paracetamol for the pain if necessary, but not aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).
  • Seek medical assistance immediately. Call your travel assistance insurance. Treatment consists of, among other aspects, the administration of antivenom. Different snake species require different types of antivenom. 
  • Write down the characteristics of the snake. Taking a photo of the snake or bringing along the dead snake can be very useful, but this is often too dangerous. A dead snake still has a deadly bite reflex for at least an hour after being killed.
  • Do not use a tourniquet or compression bandage. Also do not use a suction pump.
  • Do not cut into the wound.

Has the venom been sprayed into your eyes or mouth?

  • Rinse thoroughly with purified water.
  • Seek medical assistance immediately. Call your travel assistance insurance.
  • Write down the characteristics of the snake. Taking a photo of the snake or bringing along the dead snake can be very useful, but this is often too dangerous. A dead snake still has a deadly bite reflex for at least an hour after being killed.

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