Snakes, Scorpions, Spiders


Different Snake Venoms
• Neurotoxic venom - Cobras and Mambas - attacks the
central nervous system, and starts to affect movement,
breathing, swallowing, speech and sight.
• Haematoxic venom - Boomslang - affects the blood by
using up the clotting factors so it no longer coagulates
leading to extensive blood loss into the tissues.
• Cytotoxic venom - Puff Adders - attacks the body cells
or tissues, this bite is extremely painful, with much
swelling and marked symptoms of mamba.jpg
• Myotoxic venom - sea snakes - attacks the muscles
and can lead to death from kidney and heart failure.

 Black Mamba (Neurotoxic)
• One of Africa's most dangerous snakes.
• It's aggressive when cornered and will not hesitate to strike.
• It can reach speeds of up to 20 km/ph.
• It's the largest venomous snake in Africa with adults reaching an
average of 8 feet in length (2.5m).
• Black Mamba's are not black at all, but brown/olive skinned. Their
mouths are inky black which they show when threatened.
• Black Mambas live in savanna, scrub, tree hollows, and sometimes
people's homes.
• If a Black Mamba encounters prey it can strike up to 12 times, each
time delivering enough neuro and cardio-toxic venom to kill a dozen
men within 1 hour.
• Without anti-venom, the mortality rate is 100%

Green Mamba (Neurotoxic)
• Is a venomous snake related to the highly dangerous Black mamba.jpg
• The Green Mamba is less aggressive and smaller than the Black
Mamba, they average around 6 feet.
• The Green Mamba's venom is also significantly less toxic, however
a single bite could certainly be fatal to a human.
• Green mambas are highly arboreal and almost never touch the
• They are generally found in south-eastern Africa.
• Like their name, Green Mambas are a lovely grass green color, but
yellow when born.

 Cape Cobra (Neurotoxic)
• Has a powerful venom and is one of the deadliest snakes in Southern
• Cape Cobras grow to an average of around 4 feet.CAPE COBRA.jpg
• Cape Cobras are particularly dangerous because they tend to be nervous
and aggressive.
• Without treatment, the mortality rate in humans is 60% and death normally
occurs 2-5 hours after being bitten, usually as a result of respiratory failure
due to the onset of paralysis.
• The Cape Cobra is a beautiful looking snake some are yellow, some
copper/mahogany colored and some are purplish/black.
• The Cape Cobra loves to hunt for rodents and can climb trees to raid
weaver bird colonies.
• The Cape Cobra is common throughout dry regions in Southern Africa.

Mozambique Spitting Cobra
• In color the snake is slate to olive grey, olive orMOZAMBIUQE SPITTING COBRA.jpg
tawny brown above, with some or all scales
• Below, salmon pink to purple yellowish, with
black bars across the neck and ventrals
speckled or edged with brown or black.
• Young specimens sometimes have pink or
yellow bars on the throat.

It is considered one of the most dangerous snakes in
Africa, second only to the Mamba.
• Like the Rinkhals, it can spit its venom. Its bite causes
severe local tissue destruction (similar to that of the puff
adder). Venom to the eyes can also cause impaired
vision or blindness.
• This snake is a nervous and highly strung snake. When
confronted at close quarters this snake can rear up to as
much as two-thirds of its length, spread its long narrow
hood and will readily "spit" in defence, usually from a
reared-up position.

Puff Adder (Cytotoxic)
• Considered to be Africa's deadliest snake because it is responsible for thePUFF ADDER.jpg
most human fatalities.
• Puff Adders reach an average length of around 1 meter, and they're solidly
built with a wide girth.
• Color patterns vary depending on where they live, their habitats extend
throughout Africa except for dense rain forests and deserts.
• The Puff Adder has large fangs and its venom is powerful enough to kill a
grown man with a single bite.
• Puff Adders rely on camouflage for protection and lie still if approached.
Because of this, people tend to step on them and get bitten.
• Many fatalities occur because bites are not treated correctly, leading to
infection and gangrene.

Gaboon Viper (Cytotoxic)
• Has the longest fangs and the highest venom yield of any venomous snake
in the world.GABOON VIPER.jpg
• Gaboon Vipers can be found in West, Central and parts of East Africa, they
prefer forested areas.
• Adults reach an average length of around 5 feet.
• While the Gaboon Viper delivers a huge dose of venom, the venom is not
as toxic as some of the other snakes on this list. A single bite could kill a
man however.
• Gaboon Vipers are very interesting looking snakes with a huge triangular
shaped heads and pretty black, brown and pink markings.
• Gaboon Vipers are quite passive and rarely bite unless provoked or
stepped on (even then they don't always bite).

Boomslang (Haemotoxic)
• An extraordinarily dangerous snake found in sub-Saharan Africa.
• Human fatalities are rare, since this snake is very timid, but spectacular.BOOMSLANG.jpg
• It's venom is haemotoxic, which means that it affects the body’s natural
blood clotting mechanism resulting in the bleeding of the internal organs.
• Sometimes it can take as long as 24 hours before the symptoms of the
venom can be felt or seen. Once it gets to work however, a person can
bleed to death from every orifice.
• The Boomslang is a tree-dwelling snake (Boomslang means "tree snake" in
• Females are brown, and males are light green with black highlights.
• The Boomslang reaches an average length of 5 feet. Its fangs are at the
back of its head.

Twig / Vine Snake (Heamotoxic)
• Colouring is similar to that of a twig; grey-brown with lighterVINE SNAKE.jpg
• Very long and thin averaging 1 metre in length.
• Head is elongated, with large eyes and horizontal pupils.
• Haemotoxic – disabling the clotting process and causing internal
and external bleeding.
• No antidote to a bite by this snake is available in South Africa.
The Bite
• Puncture marks at wound site.
• Actual bite not very painful.
• Likely to bleed copiously as blood clotting mechanism becomes

• Southern Cape province of South Africa, N.E throughRINKHALS.jpg
the Free State, Lesotho, Transkei, Kwazulu Natal,South
Africa, Western Swaziland and parts of Gauteng, South
• The Rinkhals has eclectic tastes. Its main prey is toads,
but it also eats small mammals, reptiles and other
• Like several other snakes, the Rinkhals is also known
for its ability to play dead.
• The Rinkhal only hunts at night because it is hiding from
the sun during the day.

The venom of the Rinkhals is neurotoxic and partially cytotoxic.
It generally aims its venom at the face. If the venom enters the eyes
it causes great pain.
• Symptoms of a bite
Local symptoms of swelling / bruising is reported in about 25% of
cases. General symptoms of drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, violent
abdominal pain, cramps and vertigo, or dizziness, often occur, as
does a mild reaction.
Vertigo = (refers to the sensation of spinning (subjective
vertigo) or the perception that surrounding objects are
moving or spinning (objective vertigo).

Defensive behaviour
When distressed the Rinkhals spreads its hood,
showing its distinctive striped neck.
The Rinkhals is a spitting snake, and can spray
its venom (which is neurotoxic) up to 2.5m.
It is also known to fake death by rolling onto its
back with its mouth agape.

 Types of Venomous Snake Bites
• Cobras and Mambas inject Neurotoxic venom which will affect theCAPE COBRA SNAKE BITE.bmp
nervous system and cause initial muscle weakness, blurred vision,
difficulty in swallowing and breathing and eventually paralysis.
Adders inject Cytotoxic venom which will cause massive swelling
and bruising to the area that was bitten, and could eventually burst
the skin open.
Boomslange and Vine Snakes inject Haemotoxic venom which
destroys the platelets in the blood and causes major internal
bleeding in the lungs, liver, kidneys, spleen etc., and blood will also
leak out of all orifices in your body, including minor wounds and
Berg Adders are highly dangerous as they inject both Neurotoxic
and Cytotoxic venom into you.

Snake Bite Treatment
• What NOT to do:
Do not panic and run around as this will increase the blood
circulation and transport the venom quicker around the body.
Do not make a tourniquet (this means to tie a cloth tightly around
the arm or leg) as this will destroy the tissue of the arm or leg below
it and it might have to be amputated later, as well as concentrate
the venom (if it was a venomous bite) in the area and kill that body
part off quicker.
Do not cut and try to suck out the venom as we see them do in
cowboy movies, as the venom will still get absorbed into your bloodGREEN MAMBA SNAKE BITE.jpg
stream through your gums and cheeks.

What TO do:
Do loosen the clothing, pressure the patient, and keep
him calm and quiet.
Do dress the wound with a bandage and keep it cool (in
the shade). This will stop your blood vessels dilating and
decrease the blood flow in that area.
Do watch the patient carefully, if he loses
consciousness, apply the ABC's (see below).

The ABC's (these three things are useful to remember in the
majority of first aid situations):
A = Airways, tilt his neck backwards to get the tongue away from
the back of his throat and stop him from choking on it. Do not put a
blanket or anything under his head.
B = Breathing, look, listen and feel to check if he is still breathing.
If he has stopped breathing, give him one breath every five
C = Circulation, check his pulse in his neck, on either side of his
windpipe, or listen for a heartbeat by putting your ear next to his

Once the situation has been assessed, then get help as quickly as
possible. Person would need to get to hospital soon.
• In hospital, if the snake is unknown, they would treat the patient
symptomatically, that is, they would put him on a breathing machine
if he stops breathing, give antibiotics if he shows signs of infection,
• Most people that get brought to hospital for snake bites, don't know
much about the snake, so the practice of giving the patient an antivenom
is only done is certain cases.
• (Besides, anti-venom is only housed in Cape Town and Pretoria, so
anyone hiking in the Drakensberg - South Africa - and that gets
bitten by a snake, will probably get brought to a Durban hospital,
hence the symptomatic treatment which is given - this applies to
South Africa).

Identification and Treatment of Snake Bites
• South Africa is said to have over 150 species of snakes and only a low
percentage of these are venomous.
• However, given the shock, distress and panic that most of us would
feel on unexpectedly encountering a snake, it is highly unlikely that
we would be able to easily identify whether the snake we were facing
was venomous or not!
• Learning and teaching ‘snake awareness’ to you and your family is an
important part of protecting you and them from snakes.
• This awareness of snakes and snake bites has a three pronged approach:
- Be aware of the dangers posed by snakes and take steps to avoid them
- As far as you are able, ‘proof’ your home and garden against snakes
- Know the symptoms of a snake bite and the appropriate treatment

The Bite
• The venom from Adders and Vipers is Cytotoxic
• Generally two puncture marks at the site of the bite.
• Bite causes instant pain with immediate swelling,
bruising and blistering.
• Symptoms can include nausea and dizziness.
• Immobilise the limb but do not restrict the blood flow.

 The venom from Mambas and Cobras is Neurotoxic
• Generally two puncture wounds at the site of the bite.
• Bite can feel more like a sting and there is little or no bruising and
• Symptoms include feeling confused, dizziness, slurred speech,
difficulty swallowing and breathing.
• Immobilise the limb and do restrict blood flow between the bite andSNAKE BITE 3.jpg
the heart.
• Administer CPR until Medical help is available

 The venom from Boomslang and Vine snakes is Haemotoxic
• Sometimes puncture wounds can be seen at site of the bite.
• Bite is generally not very painful but within one hour copious
bleeding is likely to occur from the bite wound and any other
wounds cuts or scratches the victim may have.
• Symptoms can include a severe headache, nausea and vomiting.
• Whilst it is helpful to restrict the blood and lymphatic flow it is
important not to cause bruising as this could lead to subsequent
bleeding under the skin.
• If Venom is spat in to a person’s eyes use any liquid available,
preferably a neutral one such as water or milk – but anything at all
will do - and flush out the eye.

• Try to identify the snake; colour, size, shape of head, attacking method are
all useful.
• Loosen the Victim’s clothing and, if necessary, move them in to the shade.
• Keep the victim calm and still; movement will increase blood flow and
transport the venom to the heart much faster.
• Immobilise the limb but do NOT restrict blood flow unless you are certain
the bite was from a snake that delivers neurotoxic venom.
• Clean and dress the wound being careful not to apply pressure and cause
• Be prepared to administer CPR if necessary.
• Get the victim to a hospital as soon as possible.

Do Not!! - Do Not!! - Do Not!!
• While there can be differences of opinion as to what we should do for snake bites
the consensus of opinion as to what not to do is reasonably consistent:
• Allow the victim to exercise or stress themselves.
• Cut the bite or attempt to suck the venom out.
• Give the victim anything to eat or drink especially alcohol.
• Use potassium permanganate crystals or solution near or on the bite wound.
• Use soapy water round the bite wound.
• Leave pressure bandages on too long.
• Leave the victim alone.
• Apply ice to the wound.
• Soak the affected limb in any solutions.

Most snakes cannot identify motionless objects,
so it is best to stand perfectly still if a snake is
• Suitable protective clothing such as boots and
long trousers can prevent a serious snake bite


Are all scorpions poisonous?
• Yes!
• All species of scorpion are poisonous.
• If you are an insect

Scorpion Venom
• The venom from scorpions is neurotoxic.
• Some components in scorpion venom appear to
have no other function than to cause localized
pain or discomfort in the victim.

Southern Africa has an extremely low mortality rate
when it comes to scorpion envenomations.
• On average a dozen or so fatalities are recorded
• Thanks to the availability of good medical facilities and
antivenom, deaths in southern Africa are few indeed,
usually restricted to infants and the aged.
• These figures pale in comparison to countries such as
Mexico where on average 2000 people die annually asSCORPION THIN TAIL.jpg
a direct result of scorpion stings.

General Rule of Thumb
- More Poisonous: Thick tail /
Small Pinchers

Less poisonous: Thin tail / Large

Symptoms of a scorpion sting
• Most scorpions are not dangerous to humans.
• There are, however, a few species, in the family
Buthidae (THICK TAILS), that can be
dangerous to humans.

Common symptoms of a scorpion sting:
• pain, tingling or burning sensation at the sting
• sweating, nausea and vomiting
• numbness
• muscle twitchingSCORPION THICK TAIL.jpg
• abnormal neck, eye and head
• heart palpitations
• breathing difficulties may occur

More severe reactions include:
• blurring of consciousness
• unconsciousness
• convulsions
• fall in blood pressure
• shock
• the threat of death

Local treatment:
1. Use ice bags to reduce pain and to slow the absorption
of venom via vasoconstriction. This is most effective
during the first 2 hours following the sting.
2. Immobilize the affected part in a functional position
below the level of the heart to delay venom absorption.
3. Calm the patient to lower the heart rate and blood
pressure, thus limiting the spread of the venom.

4. Apply a topical or local anaesthetic agent to the
wound to decrease sensation of tingling,
pricking, or numbness of the skin.
5. Administer local wound care and topical
antibiotic to the wound.
6. Seek medical attention immediately.


Of the 35,000 species of spiders described worldwide,
only a handful are considered to be dangerous and only
27 are known to have caused human fatalities.
• In Southern Africa there are 5 species of dangerous
spiders whose bite might be fatal and or of medical
• The venom of the medically important spiders can be
divided into those that have neurotoxic (affects the
central nervous system) or cytotoxic (affects the tissue
around the bite site) venom.

Black button spiders
• The bite of a black button spider is usually very painful.BLACK BUTTON SPIDER.jpg
• Causes profuse sweating, raised blood pressure and
restlessness and generalised muscle pain and cramps,
stiffness of the stomach muscles, limb pain especially
legs, weakness in legs.
• Although no documented records exist of fatality due to
button spider bites, they have the potential to cause
severe symptoms with small children and elderly people
being at greatest risk.

In the case of black
button envenomation the
patient must be
hospitalized and vital
functions monitored for
up to 24 hours.

Brown button spidersBROWN BUTTON SPIDER.jpg
• The symptoms occurring after a bite from one of the
brown buttons are milder and tend to be restricted to the
bite site
• Characterized by a local burning sensation, which may
spread to the surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.
• The bite site is more evident and often seen as a red
macular spot or blanched area surrounded by a
localised rash.
• The condition usually clears up within a day or two.

Six Eyed Sand (Crab) Spider
• Fast moving spider that only lives in the South African
desert.CRAB SPIDER.jpg
• It is a light or reddish brown and sometimes
yellowish colored spider with a body of about ½ an
inch long and when measure to include its legs is
about 2 inches in length.
• Its legs are cambered in slightly like that of a crab.
• Relatives of this spider is the Recluse / Violen Spider.

Toxicology studies have demonstrated that the
venom is particularly potent, with a powerful
cytotoxic / neurotoxic effect.
• Causing blood vessel leakage, thinning of the
blood and tissue destruction.SAC SPIDER.jpg

Sac Spider
• Wandering predators that built silken retreats, or
sacs, usually on plants, between leaves, under
bark or under rocks.
• Venom: Cytotoxic
• Bite: Not painful
• Require Tetanus toxoid booster

Violen / Recluse Spider
• Distributed nearly worldwide in warmer areas,
and are often known as Recluse spiders.RECLUSE SPIDER.jpg
• Are usually brownish with a darker brown
characteristic violin marking on the

Has potent tissue-destroying venoms, which is
otherwise found only in a few pathogenic bacteria.
• This venom is highly necrotic in effect, capable of
causing lesions (open sores) as large as a bottle cap.
• The wounds take a long time to heal and may require
skin grafts. If these open wounds become infected there
are often serious consequences. Rarely, the venom is
carried by the blood stream to internal organs causing
systemic effects.

Spider Bite Symptoms
• Determining whether a victim has been bitten byspinnekopbyt 2.jpg
a spider may be impossible.
• Studies of brown recluse spiders have shown
that victims seek treatment more than three
days after their bites, making it nearly
impossible to identify the culprit.
• Black widow bites are often identified only by
symptoms of its venom, without any visible local

Local reactions to bites from all manner of toxic
bugs look the same:
• redness
• swelling
• itching
• pain

Victims should be concerned when a local reaction continues to getSPINNEKOPBYT 3.jpg
worse for more than 24 hours.
• Look for redness spreading away from the bite, drainage from the
bite, increase in pain, numbness/tingling, or a discoloration around
the bite that looks like a halo or bullseye.
• Victims should also call a doctor if they are not up to date on their
tetanus vaccinations.
• Anaphylaxis (allergic reaction) is always the biggest concern with
any type of bug bite.
• If the victim exhibits any signs of allergic reaction or anaphylaxis
shortly after a bug bite, seek medical attention immediately.


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