An emergency that can occur, that is not directly related to a combat area, is the
bite of a snake. As a Medical NCO responsible for caring for a variety of patients, the
information contained in this lesson concerning snakebites is invaluable because a
snakebite can occur almost anyplace. A snake will avoid mankind usually, unless it is
injured, trapped or somehow disturbed: n these cases, it will defend itself. An
aggressive type of snake may attack without apparent provocation. Snakes tend to
display more aggressiveness during their breeding season. Although there are over
2,500 known species of snakes in the world, less than 200 are potentially dangerous.
All species of snakes can swim, and many of the snakes can remain under water for
long periods without drowning. A bite sustained in water is just as dangerous as one on
dry land. Often the thought of a snakebite creates fear and confusion, combined with
anxiety about what to do, but this is needless and groundless when first aid for
snakebites is understood.
CLASSIFICATION OF VENOMOUS REPTILES
a. Family Helodermatidae. The two lizards of the Helodermatidae family are
the Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) and the beaded lizard, scorpion (H. horridum)
(Figure 1-1). These lizards are unique because they have grooved teeth and venom
glands. They can be found in the southwestern part of the United States and in Mexico.
The Gila monster is a large, corpulent, relatively slow-moving and largely nocturnal
reptile, and may reach an overall length of 550 mm. Its life span is 10 to 25 years, and
some records have noted even as many as 27 years. The location of the Gila monster's
venom glands is on either side of the lower jaw. The glands consist of several lobes,
and there is a separate duct for each gland to carry the venom to the mucous
membrane between the lower jaw and the lip and the lip near the base of the tooth.
Through capillary action, the venom travels from the duct to the grooves of the lower
teeth (Figure 1-2), then the venom is drawn into the puncture wound made by the tooth.
It is relatively rare that a Gila monster bites unless there has been careless handling of
it during captivity, it may not always expel venom. The venom has local irritant
hemotoxic and neurotoxic effects.