January’s unusually warm and dry weather has confused snakes, which usually hibernate during the winter and wake up in the spring. Because of the month’s higher temperatures, some venomous snakes have come out of their hiding places prematurely, posing dangers to those who get too close.
Hussein Amar, head of the emergency department of Safed’s Ziv Medical Center, warned the public this week to be alert in grassy areas to avoid snakebites. In fact, he recently treated a worker in an orchard at Dafna, a kibbutz, who was bitten by Palestine viper while harvesting grapefruit.
Majd Abu-Salah, 56, said a fellow worker told him she saw a snake in a tree and was afraid to get close. He decided to collect the grapefruit in her place, when a snake bit him on his finger. He grabbed the snake by its tail, threw it on the ground and killed it, then asked to be evacuated to the hospital.
The doctor said the snakebite was very unusual for January, as snakes usually appear beginning in March. The laborer, who suffered from vomiting and dizziness, was treated with an antidote and sent to the internal medicine department for supervision.
In an average year, Ziv doctors alone treat between 30 and 50 cases.
The period after hibernation is the most dangerous, Amar said, because the venom accumulates in the glands and, with a bite, the victim suffers destruction of the red cells in his blood and perhaps gastroenterological bleeding, irregular heartbeat and kidney damage.
Anyone who suffers from a snakebite must call an ambulance immediately. The victim should lie down calmly, as tension and a fast heartbeat spread the venom faster. The affected limb should be washed with water and kept immobile.
Never cut the skin to suck out the venom, advised Amar.
Don’t put ice directly on the wound, drink alcohol or take painkillers. Try to identify the type of snake or photograph it, so doctors will know what kind of antidote to administer.