When it comes to the effects of snake venom on humans, very rarely do we hear about it being transferred via breastmilk. But sadly, this can happen. Reports say a 35-year-old mum and her three-year-old daughter died because of snake venom being transferred to breastmilk, in India.
According to Channel News Asia, the mum was bitten by a snake in her sleep. When she woke up, unaware of what had happened, she began breastfeeding her toddler.
Shortly after this, both mum and child got sick. They were rushed to the hospital, but sadly perished on the way. The snake had been spotted in the home, but the family could not capture it.
Effects of Snake Venom on Humans: How Did the Venom Kill Both Mum and Baby?
The effects of snake venom on humans can affect both parents and kids. | Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Some scientists argue that there is no sufficient evidence to support how venom can transfer to breastmilk.
However, previous research has found that venom contains different types of proteins, enzymes, and lipids. These can’t be broken down in breastmilk, so it’s possible that it can also affect a breastfeeding baby.
However, since there are traditional drinks that contain snake venom — like Chinese snake wine — it would be safe to assume that an adult’s gastric acid can sufficiently render it safe.
With that being said, it’s still not wise to keep breastfeeding after a snake bite even if the mum is successfully treated. Because aside from the risk of transferring venom to babies, the blood clots that result from a snakebite can cause breast pain and lactation problems.
WHO Seeks to Raise Awareness About the Effects of Snake Venom on Humans
Even though we don’t live in rural areas, where snake species abound, we all need to know about effects of snake venom on humans. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
Each year, an estimated 5.4 million people are bitten each year. Half of these cases involve venom. Over 100,000 deaths result from this, while 400,000 result in injury or disfigurement.
46,000 of the over 100,000 snakebite deaths annually happen in India, says a study by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In India alone, there are about 300 snake species. Of this number, about 60 are extremely venomous.
Because of this the World Health Organization (WHO) want to stress the importance of considering snakebites as a global health priority. But not much is known about the complications involved.
What Should You Do if a Snake Bites You or Your Child?
In Singapore, there are both python and cobra species. Most of them call heavily wooded areas home. While pythons are shy and non-venomous, cobras can be very aggressive and venomous. Both can attack when they feel threatened.
Both species can grow up to 10 metres and are so sensitive to sound that they can hear humans coming before they’re spotted.
To avoid attracting snakes in your area, make sure to tidy up your garden. Keep grass short and refrain from stocking up on compost and garden clippings. Remember that empty planters, trash bins, ponds, and water sources are enticing to snakes.
When you encounter a snake, walk away. Even if they seem injured or trapped, don’t come close because some snakes can also choose to “play dead” when faced with threats.
They can travel through drain pipes, so steer clear of these! Snakes usually roam around at night, so refrain from traveling through wooded or grass trails at night.
If you do spot a snake in an urban area, you can call Acres 24-Hour Wildlife Rescue Hotline at 9783-7782.
Though you might live in an urban area where snake sightings are rare, it always helps to be extra prepared by knowing the effects of snake venom on humans. | Image courtesy: Shutterstock
If a snake bites you or your child, watch out for the following symptoms: two puncture wounds, swelling, redness, pain, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, blurring of vision, salivating, sweating, or numbness in the face or limbs.
What Should You Do in the Event of a Snakebite?
- Stay calm. As with other emergencies, the first step is not to panic.
- Seek medical help immediately. Call emergency services as soon as possible.
- Don’t move the bitten part of the body. Keep it very still! Why? You don’t want to spread the venom further.
- Loosen tight clothing. Don’t undress, but loosen tight pieces of clothes. Remove jewellery or watches.
- DO NOT try to suck the venom out.
- Don’t force a snake bite to bleed.
- DO NOT apply ice, warm compress or any other chemical to the bite.
- Don’t leave the bitten person unaccompanied.
- DO NOT apply a tourniquet around the wound. Though this helps with other wounds, it does more harm than good with snakebites. It could aggravate the swelling or spread of venom. In some cases, it could even lead to amputation.
Sources: Channel News Asia, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Iran (Archives), BBC, Science Daily, NHS UK, The Finder SG
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