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toxic secretions of the salivary glands of some snake species. Snake venom is a watery fluid that is colorless, straw-colored, or greenish and consists of albumins, globulins, enzymes, water, and salts. It can be stored dry up to 23 years. The properties of the venom differ among various snakes; for example, viper venom contains hemorrhagin, which causes hemorrhages, and cobra venom is rich in neurotoxin, which attacks the nervous system. Therefore, the aftereffects of bites by different snakes are manifested in a number of ways. A viper bite results in pain, edema in the bite region, skin hemorrhages, and the formation of blisters (sometimes with necrotic tissue). A cobra bite causes dyspnea, tachycardia, vertigo, nausea, and sometimes vomiting; death results from paralysis of the respiratory center. Cobra, Ancistrodon halys, and rattlesnake bites have an anticoagulating effect on the blood, and viper bites have a coagulating effect. There are 14 species of venomous snakes in the USSR, including the cobra, viper, carpet viper, Ancistrodon halys, and adder (common, sand, Kaznakova, and Armenian).
Bites can be prevented by wearing high shoes and proceeding cautiously during marches and when doing fieldwork. Since snake venom spreads very rapidly in the victim’s body, the application of a tight tourniquet above the site of the bite, incisions, and cauterization are not only futile but even harmful. First aid measures include complete immobilization of the limb bitten, application of splints to it, and drinking copiously (tea, coffee, and water). The most effective agent is a specific anti-snake-bite serum, which is made from snake venom. Small amounts of snake venom are used for therapeutic purposes—for example, Russell’s viper venom for tamponing bleeding gums in hemophiliacs after the extraction of teeth, cobra venom as a pain reliever, and rattlesnake and cobra venom for the treatment of epilepsy, bronchial asthma, and other diseases. Drugs that have pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory action are made from snake venom. It is used in the treatment of neuralgias, muscular pains, and chronic joint diseases. Snake venom preparations are put up in the form of ointments (viprosal, vipratox) and less commonly in solutions for subcutaneous or intramuscular injection (vipraxin, viperactin). Treatment with snake venom is contraindicated in the case of tuberculosis, febrile states, general exhaustion, circulatory disorders, and severe liver and kidney diseases.