Muscat: Over 5,000 people in Oman sought medical care in 2018 after coming into contact with venomous snakes, spiders and scorpions, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry of Health’s report said that 4,990 people were admitted to hospitals on an outpatient basis after being stung by venomous spiders and scorpions, while a further 233 people were admitted after being attacked by snakes and lizards. Men and women both fell victims to these animal attacks in equal measure.
Spiders and scorpions
Musandam topped the list of governorates in reporting cases of contact with venomous spiders and scorpions (1,493), followed by South Al Sharqiyah with 893 patients.
“Snake bites abound in the summer due to high temperatures, and in the current period due to low temperatures, many people prefer to go out for recreation and camping. This may expose them to snakes and scorpions,” said Dr Fathiya Al Qassabi, senior consultant family physician at the Ministry of Health. Dr. Al Qassabi advised campers to avoid rocky places as they are frequented by snakes. The Ministry recommends cleaning and arranging the campsite before making camp.
“Most scorpions are non-toxic and only about 25 per cent of them are poisonous,” she said. Usually, scorpion stings cause significant local pain and some swelling with less systematic toxicity, except in some cases, especially among children.
“But people may develop severe symptoms, especially if they are allergic to scorpion or snake venom, which may manifest in the form of the swelling of the bite wound, difficulty in breathing, and swelling of the tongue and throat, in addition to a decrease in blood pressure, which may lead to death,” she said.
In case of being stung by a scorpion, Dr. Al Qassabi suggested washing the area and putting cold compresses. “If these allergic symptoms do appear, you should go to the nearest health centre to take the necessary treatment and examine the wound,” Dr Al Qassabi explained.
“Toxicity will differ according to the type of bite or sting. Snake bites commonly cause local and systematic toxicity, swelling of the body, which may develop into shortness of breath, fainting, and dizziness.”
For snake bites, the Ministry recommends going straight to the emergency room as most snake bites are toxic. Snake bite victims must avoid putting pressure on the bite wound, Dr. Al Qassabi said. “A special antitoxin serum is available at the hospital and the patient will remain there under care and follow-up for at least 24 hours to prevent the spread of poison,” she said.
Ahmed Al Busaidi Technician at Natural and Medical Sciences Research Centre at Nizwa University said, “Snakes are found in most places in the Sultanate, be they wet places, wadis, mountains, forests, or rocky areas. The most dangerous snakes are found in the south of the Sultanate as well as in Al Jabal Al Akhdhar. People who go to these places should be careful and avoid disturbing snakes.”
Al Busaidi added: “If you get bitten by a snake, do not be nervous, stay calm, move away from the site quietly and look at the snake to know its pattern and colour.” He cautioned against attempting to kill the snake as that might anger the reptile further and cause it to attack in self-defence.”
“Wash the place of infection with any sterile cloth, do not tamper with the place of infection and do not try to suck the poison,” he said. “Do not bind the place of the bite strongly, and do not run. Go to the hospital directly, without administering first aid,” Al Busaidi said.
The ministry added that a majority of outpatient admissions in hospitals were children aged nine and under, which accounted for 1,248 of the 4,990 cases. In addition, elderly people aged 60 and above made up another 341 cases. Mohammed Al Shariqi, a tour guide from Al Jabal Al Akhdar, said, “when we have such cases we follow traditional methods of removing the poison from a bite until the patient reaches the hospital.” Al Shariqi added: “We wash the injured area, tie off the area above the wound, and keep the patient still and remove any tight objects such as rings, watches or tight clothing and get them to the nearest hospital immediately.”.