Thailand Snake Note – Bitten by Snake?

If you are bitten by a snake in Thailand or anywhere in Southeast Asia:

1. Lay down on the ground and be calm. Many bites – around 50% – are “DRY” bites, meaning, there is no venom transferred during the bite.

2. Find someone to help you get to the hospital immediately – don’t wait for symptoms to begin, and don’t drive yourself.

Emergency Numbers:

  • 1155 – Tourist Police – English speaking
  • 191 – Thai police nationwide
  • 1669 – Ambulance nationwide
  • 1646 Bangkok ambulance

3. Stay as still as possible. Tell someone or write down what you can remember about the snake – Color? Thickness? Pattern? Was it in a tree? On ground? Identifying the snake is very important so you get the right antivenin, if one is needed.

4. Rinse the snakebite site with water if someone can bring it to you. Don’t get up to get water, stay laying down. Do not touch the bite site, or massage it, rub it, cut it open, or do anything to the site at all.

IF YOU KNOW WHICH SNAKE BIT YOU:

1. If the snake that bit you is a Pit Viper – any green or brown viper, just rinse the area with water and get to the hospital as soon as you can. Pit viper bites can take many hours and even days to become life-threatening. Pit Viper bites may burn and possibly throb at the bite site. Do NOT wrap a Pit Viper bite.

2. If the snake was a Krait or Coral Snake, you can apply an elastic wrap (or strips of any cloth) to the affected arm or leg, starting at the fingers (toes) and working your way up. Go directly over the bite site. The tension in the wrap should be firm, but a finger should be able to go under the wrap.

Snakes of this type have venom that is primarily neurotoxic, and affects nerve connections. You probably have at least a couple hours before severe effects begin. Wrap the limb and get to a hospital quickly.

3. If the snake was a Cobra, you should not wrap the bite site unless you begin having symptoms of envenomation. Some symptoms are: vomiting, dizziness, severe headache, weakness, slowing of heart rate and/or breathing. Cobras have venom which is both neurotoxic and necrotoxic, meaning it can severely damage tissue at the bite site – especially when wrapped.

If you begin having any serious symptoms soon after a Cobra bite, immediately apply a snug pressure wrap starting at the foot or hand of the bitten limb and moving up the limb. Get to a hospital immediately – having someone take you in a car, truck, or sitting between between two people riding a motorbike. DO NOT DELAY.

IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHICH SNAKE BIT YOU:

1. If you do NOT KNOW what type of snake it was that bit you, you must wait for symptoms to develop to know what treatment is required. Ideally you will be at a hospital within an hour of being bitten, and they can monitor symptoms. If you have a severe burning or throbbing at the bite site, do not wrap the bite with anything – it is likely to be a Pit Viper or Cobra bite.

2. At the hospital, antivenin is given AFTER you start to have symptoms, not before. Some bites are “dry bites” and inject no venom. 

Caution… antivenin (also called antivenom) can cause severe allergic reaction which sometimes results in anaphylactic shock – a potentially deadly complication. Get good advice on the necessity of antivenin before it is administered. The doctors should do a test to see if you’re allergic to it first before full-scale administration of antivenin.

Insist on it!

Here is how the test for sensitivity to antivenin is administered (from Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok): “Since the antivenin is prepared from horse serum, sensitization to heterologous protein may occur in some individuals. To avoid serious allergic reactions, skin test should be performed prior to the administration by injection of 0.02 ml of 1:100 antivenin dilution intradermally. It should be noted that the skin test may not predict the anaphylaxis nor delay serum sickness reactions.”

Do Not:

  • Suck the poison out or use any devices to suck out the venom, it can cause more damage to tissue if it is a viper bite.
  • Use a tourniquet, electro-shock, or massage
  • Use ice over the wound
  • Drink alcohol, food, or use aspirin or drugs or medicine of any kind.
  • Use herbal remedies – ingested or applied to the bite site.

Sources:

  • Toxinology.com
  • Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Thai Red Cross Society,
    Bangkok, Thailand (662) 252-0161-4; [email protected]
  • Guidelines for the Clinical Management of Snake bite in the South-East Asia Region. WHO publication, 2010.

Information for this article was collected from legitimate sources of emergency information regarding snakebite treatment.

If you want to dispute these steps – please send email to: [email protected]

Once you identify the snake that bit you – here is some more information by snake name – scientific classification:

AFPMB – Database of Venomous Animals and Plants (click)

Here is the database listing venomous snakes by country:

AFPMB Database of Snakes by Country (click)

About Vern Lovic

All posts by Vern Lovic. Amateur herpetologist roaming about Thailand on field herping tours to find king cobras, kraits, vipers, coral snakes, and other snakes native to Thailand. FYI - Thailand has over 200 snake species with more than 70 of them venomous and dangerous to humans.

9 thoughts on “Thailand Snake Note – Bitten by Snake?”

  1. Hi, I’m a medic with the Australian Army currently training with the Thai’s in Chiang Rai, thank you for this site as it helped to confirn best treatment for Thai snake bite, exactly the same as management in Australia.
    Much appreciated

    1. Hi Steph, please be careful about taking what I’ve written as the authority on what is the right and wrong way to treat snake bites. I am not any sort of authority. I’ve taken what I’ve read and written these articles. I think they are accurate, but of course many people have different ideas about the proper treatment for bites from different snakes. There are many things to take into consideration – as you probably know. I suggest consulting the Saovabha Snake Farm in Bangkok – also called the Red Cross Snake Farm in Bangkok. They are the venom experts and can likely provide you with a more accurate idea of how Thais treat snake bites in the country. Thanks. Vern

  2. “2. Clean wound with water. Be gentle, don’t scrub harshly.”

    Quick question: Won’t that render a Venom Detection Kit useless in identifying the type of snake that bit you? Or is a VDK not used in Thai hospitals?

    1. Great question Chris… and I don’t know. I think it would depend on the hospital as there is a very large range of poor to great hospitals in Thailand. Best to write or call the Red Cross Snake Farm in Bangkok at the Queen Saovabha facility and ask if it is supposed to be standard procedure if you need to know..

  3. During my younger years, my Dad was working in a hospital in India for a six month visit. I was bitten by a Cobra (I don’t remember the type). I am moving to Chiang Mai in June 2012 to help with a local orphanage. What would my chances of a repeat bite be? Can you offer any preventative steps or safety tips? Thatnks, Mike in the USA.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Your chances are a couple of million to one. Don’t worry, you won’t even likely SEE a cobra. Cobras do appear to like kitchens… outdoor kitchens too. They are like all snakes – hide under things. They’re on the ground usually, but can climb bushes.

      Did you have much problem from the bite, or was it ‘dry’ – no venom?

      Cheers,

      Vern

    1. Someone posted that the animal rescue groups would be the best people to research in your area. Google that and see if you can get in touch with someone. If you do, let me know so I can post it here on the resources page – if you would. Cheers!

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