One snake’s poison may not be like another’s, even if they are from the same species. Some snake’s venoms are not even toxic at all. Snake venom is made up of several hundred proteins which all have a slightly different toxic effect on the human body.
But, on the whole, there are two main ways snakes make us suffer – by attacking the circulatory system—the blood—and/or the nervous system.
Some venom like the haemotoxic venom goes for the bloodstream. It can trigger lots of tiny blood clots and then when the venom punches holes in blood vessels causing them to leak, there is nothing left to stem the flow and the patient bleeds to death. Meanwhile, other venoms can increase blood pressure, decrease blood pressure, prevent bleeding or create it.
Neurotoxic venom tends to act more quickly, attacking the nervous system and stopping nerve signals getting through to the muscles. What this means, in essence, is paralysis, starting at the head, moving down the body until, if untreated, the diaphragm is paralysed and the patient can’t breathe. A classic sign of this is ptosis, when people can’t keep their eyes open.
Around the area of the bite, necrosis can set in. That happens when the venom destroys nearby muscles, tissues and cells. Long-term, this can lead to amputations, the loss of the use of a limb or the need for multiple skin grafts.
Venom are cured by using anti-venoms. Ironically, anti-venoms are made by extracting the snake venom are made by extracting venom from snakes then injecting it diluted into sheep or horses, which build up antibodies against it. These antibodies are then separated from the animal’s blood and used to make anti-venom.
The downside is, anti-venoms are expensive and only produced in limited quantities.
One common way, often seen in movies, is to suck out blood from the area of a victim.
There is no evidence at all that sucking out venom from a snakebite with the mouth or using any other suction device helps. In fact, experts say it could hasten the venom’s passage into the bloodstream. Cutting out the venom is not recommended either because it could make the wound much worse. In some countries, especially in remote areas where health services are scarce, natural remedies are often used to try to treat the bites but this only delays how long it takes to get to hospital.