BEN Bella Ilakut, a veteran journalist, saw his father bitten by a snake in the 1950s. â€œHe quickly sat down, cut the wound vertically with a razor blade and sucked out the poison and spat it out,â€ he says. That was the end of the matter.
Ben Bella Ilakut, a veteran journalist, saw his father bitten by a snake in the 1950s. â€œHe quickly sat down, cut the wound vertically with a razor blade and sucked out the poison and spat it out,â€ he says. That was the end of the matter.
As a wrestler, Ben Bellaâ€™s dad continued jogging as if nothing had happened. â€œIt is important you remain calm after the attack,â€ says Ben Bella. â€œNo panic, no scare tantrums.â€
Villagers in the Teso region still train other people in managing snake bites.
Richard Angubo, a zoologist with Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, says snake venom is a complex mixture containing proteins, many of which have enzymatic activity. It is for demobilising the prey of the snake. â€œAny animal bitten by a snake can be eaten, because the venom can easily be broken down, when it Is cooked,â€ he says.
Different types of snakes have different toxin effects on human beings depending on the species. The most common poisonous snakes are the viper and cobra. If any of them ejects a full dose of poison, a person has 50-50 chances to survive.
Stephen Kigolo, a snake expert with Nature Uganda, says the most important thing to do after a snake bite is to carefully look at the wound.
â€œYou can tell from the teeth marks whether or not the snake is poisonous. All poisonous snakes have fangs, non poisonous ones do not have (except the African boom slang â€“â€“ tree snake).â€
According to Dr Ben Ayiko, an Masters student at Makerere University Medical School, all poisonous snakes have fangs. When teeth wounds are uniform, then the snake is not poisonous but if it leaves fang marks, then know it is poisonous,â€ says Kigolo.
If it is poisonous, tie a piece of cloth above the wound, tight enough to slow down the flow of blood towards the heart and loose enough to allow the blood to go to the lower parts.
â€œWash the wound with distilled water or any other available liquid, including urine or milk,â€ says Kigolo. â€œIf you have dilute potassium permagnate, use it. Make vertical slights at the site of the wound. When done horizontally you may cut some muscles or nerves. You can also massage the leg or foot vertically.â€
Some people use the black stone. They tie it on a snake bite wound and it sticks. It is believed to suck out the venom. Locally, it was made by roasting a cow bone. But Mathias Behangana, a lecturer at the Department of Zoology at Makerere University, says black stones, also known as magnetite, do not work. â€œIts iron has magnetic powers which get it stuck on the iron in the blood,â€ he said. However, Dr Jjuuko Ndawula, a specialist in alternative medicine, still uses it. â€œIt has worked on my patients. Only that I follow it up with a spoon of honey every morning from the following day to clean the system and revitalise the person.â€
Ayiko says the common symptoms of a snake bite are anxiety, local pain at site of bite and marks of the fangs. The victims may then experience capillary bleeding from the gums and previous wounds, local swelling, abdominal pain, diarrhoea and paralysis, vomiting and loss of consciousness, hypertension and failure of the blood to clot. Slow pulse is common in the viper and it is a sign of poisoning and shock.
Cobra bites cause commonly respiratory paralysis, although in some instances pain may be severe without even poisoning and the reverse happens with poisoning. Nearly all this appears within 30 minutes.
â€œThe first step is to reassure the patient that it can be treated,â€ said Ayiko. â€œThen wipe the wound clean and apply a firm creep bandage over the wound to ensure the slow spreading of venom, remove the bandage after eight hours.â€
The rest of the treatment is symptomatic. Give tetanus injection, antibiotics in case of wounds. Lastly give the patient anti-venom; especially when you suspect systematic poisoning, says Ayiko.
Ndawula says if the bite is on the foot, the first precaution is to cut off blood flow to the heart.
â€œThe patient should not walk or do anything vigorously,â€ he said.
â€œThe patient should also not be
given food because blood is drawn from other parts of the body to digest the food.â€
Ndawula says make vertical cuts at that particular area to increase the out pouring of the blood.
â€œMassage the leg downwards; there are high chances that part of the poison could be released. It is better to let the blood drop on a banana leaf so that you see the poison as it gets out.â€
Ndawula says the final remedy depends on the type of snake. But the one that may cut across is a concoction from a herb known locally as dhaniya (Latin Name: Coriandrum sativum, coriander in English, giligilani in Swahili), mixed with raw eggs and some little lemon taken orally.
â€œMix two eggs in five crushed leaves and add lemon juice,â€ he says. â€œThis mixture quickly detoxifies the systems and reduces the chance of the poison to be mixed in the blood.â€
How to handle snake bites