In the event that you or someone close to you gets bitten by a snake it does not mean that you will die, however this also should not be taken lightly either. All the advice columns will say don’t panic. That is rather difficult, panic but get over it quickly! According to statistics the chances that the bite will be life threatening is very slight however possibly being a negative statistic does not make anyone feel any better. Most of the snakes found in South Africa are not venomous and even the ones that are dangerously venomous are the minority as well. However in the event that someone has been bitten and given enough venom to be dangerous, the only solution to this is a suitable amount of the correct antivenom, administered within the correct timeline.
In South Africa we make one antivenom to counter the effects of the Boomslang and another antivenom to neutralise the effects of all Cobras, Mambas, Rinkhals and the two big adders namely the Puff adder and the Gaboon adder. In the event that effects of the venom indicate that it could become life threatening then the antivenom will counter this. The antivenom should preferably be administered in a hospital setup so that in the event that your body shows a massive allergic reaction to the antivenom then they can save your life.
Even being bitten by snake which possesses a potentially dangerous venom, does not mean you are going to have any ill effects or die. Snakes can bite and not give off any venom or just give off a small amount. In most snake bites you have a few hours before the effects become life threatening which is enough time to get to medical help. There is virtually no first aid that can save your life, it could slow down the effects in certain cases but it is not a cure. The pressure bandage method (link) does help however knowing which species of snake bit you, is very important. Tourniquets are also only advisable in Mamba and Cobra (excluding spitting cobras) bites as reducing the blood supply to an area where the tissue is being affected is the wrong thing to do.
By clicking on the links at the top of the page you can see what the various venomous snakes look like although this list is not exhaustive. Some look the same most of the time (Green and Black mambas) while others can be found in a variety of colours and patterns. Just remember that snakes are also known to “hitch hike” with loads of wood, plants and even just under vehicles so it is possible to find the snake far outside their distribution range.
If the snake is not on the red list above then it will probably not kill you. It is possible that some will give you a nasty bite which hurts or it can cause you to have an allergic reaction the same as you would from a bee sting. Some snakes have killed people however this has only ever happened once or twice so they are not used in the production of antivenom and thus using the SAVP antivenom will not be advisable or effective. They are listed under yellow tabs. The Black or Woods spitting cobra is expected to have a lethal venom and although the SAVP antivenom is not designed for this snake, judicious amounts of antivenom should be able to neutralise the lethal effects of the venom.