Animal Bites (Envenomation)

What is Envenomation?

Venom is a poisonous secretion of an animal, such as a snake, spider, or jellyfish. Envenomtion is usually caused into a human by an animal bite or an animal sting.

Animal Bites do not cause many fatalities(deaths), but it may cause a person to become very ill and therefore admission to Intensive Care may be necessary.

  • What are the signs and symptoms of envenomation?
  • What is an anti-venom?
  • What happens in the ICU?
  • How long will your loved one remain in ICU?
  • Internet Links

What are the signs and symptoms of Envenomation?

  • Local tissue damage
  • Pain at site of bite/ sting
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea /vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • large lymph nodes, or swollen glands
  • Coagulation problems (abnormal clotting of the blood)
  • Rhabdomyolysis – Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle cells resulting in the release of the muscle cells (myoglobin) into the bloodstream. Some of these are harmful/ toxic to the kidney and may lead to acute renal failure.
  • Muscle weakness/ Muscular paralysis
  • Sudden collapse and death

What is anti venom?

Anti-venom is a biological product or medication used in the treatment of venomous bites or stings. It is usually administered into a muscle or a of the Patient. Anti-venom is created by milking venom from the desired snake, spider or insect. The venom is then diluted and injected into the Patient. The Patient will undergo an immune response to the venom, producing antibodies against the venom’s active molecule by neutralising the poisonous venom that has been transmitted to the Patient.

What happens in the Intensive Care Unit?

  • Your loved one will be monitored with a Bedside Monitors where heart rate& heart rhythm, blood pressure, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation and temperature will be monitored.
  • Your loved one will require an Arterial Catheter for haemodynamic/blood pressure monitoring and for regular Blood& Pathology tests in Intensive Care
  • Infusion pumps are administering drugs to support your loved ones blood pressure and haemodynamic system, as well as intravenous fluids may be administered via a central venous catheter/ CVC(Central Venous Lines).
  • Blood products such as Red blood cells, including fresh frozen plasma(FFP’s), cryoprecipitate, and platelets may be given for abnormal blood clotting (coagulopathy) and to replace any blood lost through severe bleeding.
  • Ventilators (Breathing Machines) usually initiate Mechanical ventilation via a Breathing Tube (endotracheal tube) as the Patient is usually so sick that mechanical ventilation is required. Once the Patient is ventilated he or she will require suctioning to remove secretions from the lungs.
  • An NG Tube (Nasogastric Tubes) is usually inserted into your loved ones stomach, in order to commence nutrition or to remove fluids.
  • Urine Output is usually measured hourly, after insertion of a Urinary Catheter
  • Chest X-ray and other pathology tests such as blood tests, CT scan, MRI, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram (ECG), and urine tests may be carried out in order to get a definitive diagnosis.
  • Your loved one is placed on an air or a soft mattress, to prevent any pressure injuries

How long will your loved one remain in ICU?

Your loved ones stay in ICU may only be for a few days, but could be longer if there are complications. Please ask the ICU nurse or doctor if you have any questions.

Internet Links

Australian Rescusitation Council

Any Questions?

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors.

All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff. Please discuss these issues with the medical and nursing staff who are caring for your loved one. 

The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual Patient variation. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one. INTENSIVE CARE HOTLINE attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual Patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.

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