Tips to protect yourself from the main hazards of summer - sun and snakes

Hadassah hospital's Dr. Assaf speaks with Arutz Sheva on how to protect yourself from outdoor hazards.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Snake - illustrative
Snake - illustrative

The extreme heatwave conditions prevailing over the past week have brought with them some of the main dangers to life and health of the Israeli summer – heat exhaustion and snake bites.

For the benefit of Arutz Sheva readers, Dr. Kobi Assaf, head of Hadassah Hospital’s urgent care center, explained how to protect oneself from both heat and snakes.

“The main danger when it comes to snake bites is the spread of the venom in the victim’s body,” Dr. Assaf says. “As soon as a person realizes he has been bitten, the most important thing is to get to hospital as fast as possible, because serum is only available in hospitals, which are also the only places equipped to deal with the potential side effects of the bite, which aren’t always felt right away.”

According to Dr. Assaf, “The more time the venom has to spread in the body, the greater the damage done. Therefore, the victim should lie down and the affected limb should be immobilized. He should move as little as possible, and should attempt to remain calm, because moving around and getting upset or excited will cause the venom to spread faster through the blood.

“If there are medical personnel nearby, they should insert an IV line – being careful not to insert it in the affected limb. The main danger related to snakebite is an extreme allergic reaction, and in such a case, the blood pressure drops, the respiratory tract swells up, and the person will struggle to breathe. That’s why it’s imperative to call for a mobile ICU unit to treat a snakebite victim and take him straight to the hospital.”

Of course, prevention is much better than cure. “Snakes are usually found under stones or hiding beneath vegetation,” Dr. Assaf explains. “When you’re outdoors, it’s important to be careful to avoid poking your hands into such places. If you’re camping, shake out your sleeping bag before spreading it out to sleep. Before putting on your shoes, turn them upside-down and shake them out to make sure there isn’t a snake or a scorpion hiding inside. And of course, never go barefoot or wear sandals in places where snakes may be found. Instead, always wear shoes that offer some protection to the ankle area, which is the most likely place to be bitten.”

In Dr. Assaf’s unit, they have already treated a significant number of snakebite victims this summer. “The latest case was last week,” he says. “This was a young man who is still in intensive care. He arrived in very serious condition, and also suffering from heat exhaustion. Fortunately, his condition has since improved. Two weeks before that, we treated a young boy from Beit Shemesh who also arrived in serious condition.”

On that note, Dr. Assaf adds that heat exhaustion and sunstroke can also have very serious consequences. When the temperatures rise to the levels we have seen this week, a person who remains outdoors for any length of time will get so hot that his body won’t be able to cool him down fast enough, especially if he was exercising.

“The first thing to remember when trying to avoid heatstroke is to stay indoors or cooler areas as much as possible,” Dr. Assaf says. “The higher the ambient temperature, the harder the body has to work to cool down, until eventually, it simply can’t cope. So, don’t stay outdoors for an extended period of time, and certainly not during the hottest part of the day. If you do have to go out, make it as quick as possible, and avoid physical exertion. For soldiers and so forth who are sent on training exercises, these should be kept short, up to 45 minutes maximum, and then the soldiers should be allowed to rest in a shady area in order to give their bodies time to cool down before resuming activities.”

Arutz Sheva wishes all its readers a healthy summer!