Thailand has an abundance of venomous snakes. Among the neurotoxic family Elapidae, there are three species of the genus Naja (cobras), three of the genus Bungarus (kraits), and the king cobra of the genus Ophiophagus. Other Elapidae snakes in Thailand include sea snakes and Asian coral snakes of the genus Calliophis. They have potent venoms but rarely bite humans. Tissue and hemotoxic snakes are represented by family Viperidae, subfamilies Viperinae and Crotalinae. They remain an occupational hazard for farmers and rubber tappers, causing serious morbidity but only rare deaths, since competent treatment is now widely available throughout Thailand. Purified equine antivenin is manufactured locally for the monocled and Siamese spitting cobras (Naja kaouthia and N. siamensis), king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), banded krait (Bungarus fasciatus), most green pit vipers (Trimeresurus sp.), Malayan pit viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma), and the Siamese Russell's viper (Daboia russelli siamensis).
Length: Up to 150 cm
The banded krait is found predominantly in flat and hilly country. The snakes inhabit open areas, fields, grass landscapes and forests. They are in close proximity to waters quite frequently. The snakes avoid sunlight. If they are exposed to the sun, they thrash around and hide their head under the body loops or try to flee to a dark place. During the day, the banded kraits are extremely lethargic. The predominant food of these snakes is other snakes. In addition, lizards, and rodents are eaten. Fish may also be a part of the diet. These snakes are active at night.
With regard to toxicity, the poison of bungarus fasciatus is said to be less effective than the other kraits. This consideration is relative, because reports exist that after the bite of a banded krait death can occur after just 30 minutes. In another documented case, without administration of serum, the bite victim died after only 15 hours.
Length: Up to 150 cm
Naja kaouthia is a ground dwelling snake in the flat country, which can however climb and swim very well. The monocled cobra is equally at home in a wide variety of places: forest and shrub areas, as well as plantations, rice fields, pastures, villages and cities. The monocled cobra is active at night and day, but more often at night. These snakes eat rodents, frogs, toads, ducks and chicks. When threatened they straighten up, spread the neck flat, and hiss. If you react calmly, they usually take flight. These snakes can vary in colour from light beige to dark brown and grey. This snake has a very powerful life threatening poison.
Length: Up to 450 cm
King Cobras like living in light woods and in open grass lands. However, they can also be found on agricultural land. They often live near water. They can swim and climb well. They can also move forwards very quickly with an upright body. They are active at night and during the day. The young King Cobras have contrasting black and yellow stripes. King Cobra does not enjoy attacking and quickly flees. A cobra bite is always dangerous due to the amount of poison transferred.
Many snakes are non-venomous and do not create serious medical problems with a bite. However, identifying a snake from the bite puncture wounds is often extremely difficult for the amateur. Unless the snake can be positively identified as a non-venomous species, the victim should be considered to have been bitten by a poisonous snake and managed appropriately. The snake should be captured for identification. If the snake is known to be non-venomous, the wound should be washed vigorously with soap and water, and the victim treated with dicloxacillin, erythromycin, or cephalexin.
Avoiding Poisonous Snakes
1. Avoid the known habitats of poisonous snakes, such as rocky ledges and woodpiles.
2. Do not reach into areas that you cannot visually examine first. Walk on clearly marked trails, and use a walking stick to move suspicious objects. Do not reach blindly behind rocks.
3. Wear adequate protective clothing, particularly boots to cover your feet and lower legs.
4. Never hike alone in snake territory.
5. Avoid hiking at night in snake territory. Carry a flashlight and walking stick.
6. Do not handle snakes unless you know what you are doing. Remember that you can be bitten and envenomed by seemingly dead or non-venomous snakes.
Treatment of Snakebite
If a person is bitten by a snake that could be poisonous, act swiftly. The definitive treatment for serious snake venom poisoning is the administration of antivenin (sometimes called"anti-venom"). The most important aspect of therapy is to get the victim to an appropriate medical facility as quickly as possible.
1. Don't panic. Most bites, even by venomous snakes, do not result in medically significant envenomations. Reassure the victim and keep him from acting in an energy-consuming, purposeless fashion. If the victim has been envenomed, increased physical activity may increase his illness by hastening the spread of venom.
2. Retreat out of the striking range of the snake, which should be considered to be the snake's body length.
3. Locate the snake. If possible, identify the species. If you cannot do this with confidence , kill the animal with a blow on the neck from a long, heavy stick. Collect the snake and bring it along for proper identification. Doing this may be extremely important in estimating the amount of antivenin necessary; however, never delay transport of the victim in order to capture a snake. Take care to carry the dead animal in a container that will not allow the head of the snake to bite another victim (the jaws can bite in a reflex action for 20 to 60 minutes after death). If you are not sure how to collect the snake, it is best just to get away from it, to avoid creating an additional victim.
4. Apply the Extractor suction device according to the manufacturer's instructions. This removes venom without the need for a skin incision.
5. Splint the bitten body part, to avoid unnecessary motion. Allow room for swelling within the splint. Maintain the bitten arm or leg at a level below the heart. Remove any jewelry that could become an inadvertent tourniquet.
6. Transport the victim to the nearest hospital.
7. Do not apply ice directly to the wound or immerse the part in ice water An ice pack placed over the wound is of no proven value. Application of extreme cold can cause an injury similar to frostbite.
8. If the victim is more than 2 hours from medical attention, and the bite is on an arm or leg, use the pressure immobilization technique (figure 165): Place a 2" x 2" (5 cm) cloth pad (1/4", or 0.6 cm, thick) over the bite and apply an elastic wrap firmly around the involved limb directly over the padded bite site with a margin of at least 4 to 6" (10 to 15 cm) on either side of the wound, taking care to check for adequate circulation in the fingers and toes (normal feeling and color). An alternative method is to simply wrap the entire limb at the described tightness with an elastic bandage. The wrap is meant to impede absorption of venom into the general circulation by containing it within the compressed tissue and microscopic blood and lymphatic vessels near the limb surface. You should then splint the limb to prevent motion. If the bite is on a hand or arm, also apply a sling.
An alternative to the pressure immobilization technique is a constriction band (not a tourniquet) wrapped a few inches closer to the heart than the bite marks on the bitten limb. This should be applied tightly enough to only occlude the superficial veins and lymph passages. The band may be advanced periodically to stay ahead of the swelling. It is of questionable usefulness if 30 minutes have intervened between the time of the bite and the application of the constriction band (or pressure immobilization technique).
9. The only indications for incision and suction are if all four of the following conditions are present: The bite is from a rattlesnake, the victim is more than 1 hour from medical care, the Extractor cannot be applied, and the procedure can be performed within 5 minutes of the bite. The incisions should be made only by a person experienced in the procedure with a razor blade or sharp knife directly over the fang marks, in a parallel fashion (not crisscross), 1/8'' to 1/4'' (0.3 to 0.6 cm) long and i/8" to 1/4'' deep (just through the skin). The purpose is to enlarge the fang marks and facilitate suction. Apply suction for 30 minutes with the rubber device from a snakebite kit—use your mouth only as a last resort. The impression of most snakebite experts is that incision and suction are of little value and probably should be abandoned. It appears that little venom can actually be removed from the bite site unless a perfectly placed incision is made immediately after the bite and followed by superb suction. Furthermore, mouth contact with a crisscross incision invariably creates a nasty infection that leaves a noticeable scar; there is also the risk of transmission of blood-borne disease.
10."Snakebite medicine" (whiskey) is of no value and may actually be harmful if it increases circulation to the skin.
11. There is not yet scientific evidence that electrical shocks applied to snakebites are of any value. To the contrary, there are experiments that refute this concept.
12. The bite wound should be washed vigorously with soap and water, and the victim treated with dicloxacillin, erythromycin, or cephalexin.
Watch for an allergic reaction caused by the snakebite. Once the victim is in the hospital, the severity of envenomation will be ascertained, and the victim treated with antivenin if necessary. Such therapy must be carried out under the supervision of a physician, because serious allergic reactions to presently available antivenins are common.