Outdoor workers can be exposed to various species, such as snakes with venomous bites, insects that sting and toxic plants, which can result in a visit to the emergency department after only a moment of physical contact. Exposure may cause an allergic reaction that is mildly uncomfortable or debilitating pain requiring immediate medical attention. The specific types of hazards vary depending on the nature of the outdoor work being performed, geographic region, season and duration of the job. However, safety officials and plant and animal experts advise people who work outdoors to take appropriate precautions when on the job.
What are snake bites?
Snakes bite either to capture prey or for self-defense. But since there are so many different types of snakes — including both venomous and non-venomous — not every snake bite is created equal.
Different species carry different types of venom. The major categories include:
- Cytotoxins: Cause swelling and tissue damage wherever you’ve been bitten.
- Haemorrhagins: Disrupt the blood vessels.
- Anti-clotting agents: Prevent the blood from clotting.
- Neurotoxins: Cause paralysis or other damage to the nervous system.
- Myotoxins: Break down muscles.
Are snake bites dangerous?
The answer might seem obvious, but there are two different types of snake bites. And one is more serious than the other:
- Dry bites: These occur when a snake doesn’t release any venom with its bite. As you’d expect, these are mostly seen with non-venomous snakes.
- Venomous bites: These are much more dangerous. They occur when a snake transmits venom during a bite.
Which snakes are venomous?
There are two major groups of venomous snakes:
- Elapids (cobra family): There are about 300 venomous species of Elapidae, including kraits, mambas, coral snakes and sea snakes. They have short fangs in the front of the upper jaw and strike downward, followed by chewing. Their venom is mainly neurotoxic but it can also harm body tissue or blood cells. If a cobra bites you, you can die from paralysis of the heart and lungs very quickly after the bite.
- Vipers: There are more than 200 species of Viperidae, which includes pit vipers (like rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, or cottonmouths) and Old-World vipers (adders). They have long, hollow, venomous fangs attached to movable bones in their upper jaw. They fold their fangs back into their mouth when they’re not in use.
How to Prevent Snake Bites?
- Be aware of snakes that may be swimming in the water to get to higher ground and those that may be hiding under debris or other objects.
- If you see a snake, back away from it slowly and do not touch it.
Signs and Symptoms of Snake Bites
If you are walking in high water, you may feel a bite, but not know that you were bitten by a snake. You may think it is another kind of bite or scratch. Pay attention to the following snake bite signs and symptoms.
Depending on the type of snake, the signs and symptoms may include:
- A pair of puncture marks at the wound
- Redness and swelling around the bite
- Severe pain at the site of the bite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Labored breathing (in extreme cases, breathing may stop altogether)
- Disturbed vision
- Increased salivation and sweating
- Numbness or tingling around your face and/or limbs
What TO DO if You or Someone Else is Bitten by a Snake?
- Try to see and remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treatment of the snake bite.
- Keep the bitten person still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom if the snake is venomous.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Dial 911 or call local Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
- Apply first aid if you cannot get the person to the hospital right away.
- Lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart.
- Tell them to stay calm and still.
- Wash the wound with warm soapy water immediately.
- Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
What NOT TO DO if You or Someone Else is Bitten by a Snake?
- Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it (this may put you or someone else at risk for a bite).
- Do not apply a tourniquet.
- Do not slash the wound with a knife.
- Do not suck out the venom.
- Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
- Do not drink alcohol as a pain killer.
- Do not drink caffeinated beverages.
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