Posted on Apr 28, 2015

Early evaluation and prompt first aid of snake bites reduces venom effect, USF Nursing reports

Early evaluation and prompt first aid of snake bites reduces venom effect, USF Nursing reports

Interaction with snakes is inevitable. In the United States, thousands of people are bitten by snakes each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A significant number of those snake bites occur in Florida. Snake-bites come from venomous and non-venomous snakes. So, treating patients with different venom wounds can be a challenge for emergency nurses.

To help nurses provide more accurate assessment of snake bite wounds, Stephen Mcghee, MSc, Bsc, PGCE, RNT, RN, VR, instructor at USF College of Nursing, conducted a literature review showing that early assessment and effective first aid of patients with snake-bites reduces chances of envenomation (poisonous effects of snake bite).

Stephen Mcghee

McGhee and his team, Col. Alan Finnegan, nursing defense professor for the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Connie Visovsky, PhD, RN, ACNP-BC, associate dean of student affairs and community engagement at USF Nursing, and John Clochesy, PhD, RN, assistant dean of the Ph.D. program, and director of faculty mentorship at USF Nursing, conducted this detailed overview to identify the different types of snake bites in the U.K. and United States and make recommendations for nurses caring for patients with snake-bite wounds.

“Most emergency department nurses may lack experience in treating patients with snake bites,” McGhee said. “So, the most important thing is to identify the type of snake involved to ensure the patient receives the correct treatment.”

The findings of this overview can be found in the Emergency Nurse Journal.

Mcghee discussed two types of venomous snakes: Viperidae and Elapidae. These snakes are typically found in south-eastern U.S. Viperidae inject venom that leave painful and deep wounds. Elapidae inject a neurotoxic venom that attacks blood and nerve tissues.

“The first indicator of a snake bite is anxiety,” Macghee said. “Most patients will report anxiety-like symptoms including dizziness, numbness, palpitations, sweating, tightness in the chest and tingling, so practitioners need to offer reassurance at all times.”

Stephen McGhee research

Mcghee and team recommend the following tips to nurses treating a patient with a snake bite:

  • Ask the patient to send an image of the snake
  • Safely transfer the patient to the hospital-as quickly as possible and with as little movement as possible
  • Ask the patient to remove rings and tight-fitting jewelry
  • A patient bit by a venomous snake should be monitored for at least 24 hours after treatment
  • If the patient is in pain, avoid anti-inflammatory drugs due to risk of bleeding and renal dysfunction
    • Instead give the patient paracetmol or ibuprofen
  • Secondary hypovolemia should be treated with blood transfusion
  • Follow up with the patient because he/she may be at risk of developing an allergy-type of disease

For related USF Nursing research stories click here.