Poisonous Animals

The possibility of encountering scorpions — especially the virulently poisonous one of the Southwest — makes it prudent to take certain precautions in regions where these animals are not uncommon. Careful campers do not sleep on the ground, and they shake out footwear before putting it on. Because scorpions, small, straw-colored, spiderlike animals, usually spend their days beneath rock slabs, pieces of rock should be overturned with a pick, not by hand.

Snakes bite a few thousand persons a year, but few of their victims die. Certainly the most dangerous are the various species of rattlesnakes, because they are found in almost every state. Some are quite large and inject a large amount of venom when they strike. The coral snake of Florida is dangerous but is restricted to a small region. Copperheads and water moccasins prefer swamps and damp areas.

Snakes, like all reptiles, cannot adjust their bodies to changing temperatures, so that they are forced to hibernate in cold weather and to hide from the sun in the heat of the day. In the desert they hunt for rodents at night. Few snakes are aggressive; they will bite only if they are driven into a corner where they feel they must fight to escape. For this reason, most encounters with snakes are the fault of man; they can be avoided by taking a few simple precautions.

Avoid walking in dense brush or near fallen logs or woodpiles where snakes may be resting during the day, or anywhere that you cannot see where you are stepping. Be careful of narrow, rocky ledges where you may find a snake sunbathing. Walk slowly and make some noise as you walk to give warning of your approach. Stout shoes and loose, floppy trousers will protect the most exposed area of your body —the legs and feet. Don't reach into a hole or turn over rocks with your hands; use a stick or rock hammer. Stay as close as possible to your car; it may be your ambulance if you are bitten.

Dr. Clifford C. Snyder of the University of Utah, a recognized authority on treatment of snakebites, advises that venturesome persons going into snake country should carry a snakebite kit and learn to use it. Dr. Snyder has permitted us to include his recommendations for a kit, which should include a flat elastic tourniquet, two surgical prep sponges saturated with alcohol and sealed in sterile foil, a disposable scalpel sealed in sterile foil, and an ampoule of antivenin.

The best treatment for snakebite is to rush the victim to a hospital or physician. Meanwhile, the victim should sit down, quiet himself, and avoid exertion. If possible, someone should kill the snake for identification purposes in choosing the correct antivenin for treatment. A tourniquet—even a belt, tie, handkerchief, or strip of cloth—should be applied between the bite and the heart. On an arm or leg, place the tourniquet two or three inches above the bite and above the swelling. It should be loose enough so that a finger can easily be inserted beneath it. If it is too tight, it will stop the circulation. The tourniquet should be loosened once an hour. But if the bite is on the face, do not attempt to apply a tourniquet.

The second step in field first aid is to cleanse the wound with the alcohol sponges. Then an incision should be made, connecting the fang marks and extending the cut a quarter inch beyond them. Care must be taken to avoid severing muscles or nerves. The wound should be squeezed gently with the fingers for twenty to thirty minutes or until the victim is taken to the doctor. Dr. Snyder advises against sucking the wound because the mouth contains bacteria and because unnoticed cuts in the mouth may absorb enough poison to do in the would-be doctor. Ice wrapped in a bit of clean cloth may be applied to the wound, but not for more than an hour. The ice should be removed gradually to avoid stimulating the circulation.

Directions for administering the antivenin should be followed closely if the situation requires that it be given in the field.

0 0

Post a comment