I hate snakes. There, I said it. So, when I moved to Bangkok, Thailand, I presumed because it was a mega-city I would never see a snake, so didn’t worry. How wrong I was! Snakes are everywhere in Bangkok and, if you’re here long enough, you’ll likely see a few. According to Voice of America, up to 5 million people are bitten by snakes every year – mostly in Asia and Africa. Hundreds of Thailand’s snake species are poisonous and, if you do get bitten by a snake in Bangkok you should know what to do.
Preventing a Snake Bite in Bangkok – As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you happen to come across a snake in Bangkok, give it a wide berth. Snakes are more afraid of people than we are of them so the only time they bite is when they feel threatened. Walking a wide swath around a snake will almost always ensure it doesn’t bite you.
In Bangkok too, when walking down a dark soi (small lane) at night, always carry a flash light if there aren’t street lights. Snakes often travel from one side of a street to another and stepping on one because you can’t see it will automatically guarantee you get bitten. Don’t pick snakes up, no matter how small they are (some of the smallest in Thailand can be the most poisonous), don’t back them into a corner, and don’t hit them with anything unless you know what you’re doing. Leave a snake alone, and it will probably leave you alone too.
Learn About Thailand’s Poisonous Snakes – There are some excellent websites about Thailand’s poisonous snakes, but the best place in Bangkok to learn about snakes so you can recognize them is the Thai Red Cross Society Snake Farm. Here, you can see the actual snakes in cages and pens so, if you come across one in real life in Bangkok, you’ll know it’s a snake who’s bite can kill you.
What to Do if You Get Bitten By a Snake in Bangkok –
Stay Calm – First of all, stay calm. Any undue running around or panicking simply gets your heart rate up and makes the venom travel through your body faster. Calm down, relax, take a deep breath.
Don’t Pick Up the Snake – Many people try to pick up the snake or kill it so they can take it to the hospital as identification. Don’t. Simply take a photograph of it, so the doctor can see what type of snake it was and, as long as it’s not an immediate threat, let it just continue on its way before someone else gets bitten.
Don’t Use a Tourniquet, Suck the Venom Out – Unbeknownst to popular opinion, the last thing you should do is use a tourniquet on a snake bite or attempt to suck the venom out. In most cases, this will cause more damage to the affected area and make the venom even more dangerous. Just put a bandage over the affected area and get someone to drive you to a hospital. Make sure you lie flat with your feet elevated on the way, if possible, as this will slow down the venom’s progression.
Go to Any Bangkok Hospital – All Thai hospitals are set up for snake bites and are somewhat experts in this field. Call ahead to the hospital emergency room and tell them you’re on your way. Also describe the snake to them so they might have an idea what anti-venom to use. Once you get to a Bangkok hospital, the emergency room staff will take it from there. Expect to be in the hospital for anything from 1-5 days depending on the seriousness of the bite and the type of snake that bit you.
Thais will usually kill any snake they find, especially in Bangkok. I once saw the security guard at the school I was teaching in beating a snake with a broom. He’d found it in a kindergarten classroom, and certainly wasn’t taking any chances. For westerners though, the further away you are from a Thai snake the better.
Most snake bites in Bangkok are survivable, buy you don’t want to take the chance of being bitten so you can find out. But, if you are bitten by a snake in Bangkok, follow these quick tips and you hopefully you’ll survive the incident with nothing more than a little bit of bodily damage and a story to tell.