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WATCH: Benoni man recalls snake bite ordeal

The effect of the venom of the rinkhals is predominately cytotoxic in bites on humans.

Crystal Park resident Bill Auret is grateful to be alive after being bitten on his index finger by a rinkhals in March.

The 69-year-old thanked the nurses of Life The Glynnwood and Tambo Memorial Hospital, who played an integral role in saving his life.

Detailing his intense experience, Auret said he received a call from his neighbour on March 18 at around 15:00, asking him for help.

Bill Aurent is grateful for the service he received at Life The Glynnwood and Tambo Memorial hospitals.

“When I got there, his garage door was open, and he was standing there, looking confused. He told me when he arrived home from shopping and while opening the gate, he saw a snake going towards the garage.

“He picked up a brick and threw it at the snake, but missed it.”

In his efforts to assist his neighbour locate the snake, Auret said he thoroughly searched the garage.

When he picked up a 5L plastic jerrycan, the snake was underneath.

“I pressed the bottle on its head but its neck stuck out so it turned around and bit me.

“We managed to pick it up and take it outside. When finished, my neighbour tied a string around my finger to stop the poison from spreading.”

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Auret said he had never been scared of snakes, not even as a child as he used to catch them. This is why he offered to help his neighbour – although this time, the tactic he used worked against him.

While he was not in pain directly after the incident, his neighbour took him to local pharmacies for help, but they refused to assist with the snakebite.

After a while, Auret started feeling sick and his hand swelled up.

“I started vomiting and my body became weak. Seeing the state that I was in, my neighbour drove me to Life The Glynnwood, where six nurses attended to me.

“They stabilised me and later that day, at around 19:00, I was transported to Tambo Memorial Hospital for further treatment.”

Auret said a heartwarming moment he was thankful for was when one nurse fetched a cloth and pushed the other nurses out of the way so that she could clean his face of the vomit.

“Based on all the bad experiences you hear people have at hospitals, I was not expecting what I experienced.

“There are not enough words to describe the good service I received at both hospitals. I would like to thank every nurse who gave me another chance at life.”

Auret has now fully recovered, having had a third check-up this month.


According to Shawn Hefer, of the African Snake Bite Institute, while the rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus) is closely related to the cobra family, it is not a true cobra and it is often incorrectly referred to as a spitting cobra.

“Two major differences between the rinkhals and true cobras are cobras lay eggs while the rinkhals give birth to live young.

“Also, cobras have smooth scales while the rinkhals have keeled (rough) scales. The colour of this snake varies from grey to olive to dark brown/grey to pitch black.

“It is easily identified when it rears up and spreads a hood, just like a cobra.
“White bands are visible on the chest area of the snake, and it will readily spit its venom when threatened,“ he said.

“Although considered being one of our deadly snakes, we have not seen a human fatality from a bite from a rinkhals in about 40 years.”

The effect of the venom of the rinkhals is predominately cytotoxic in bites on humans and can cause swelling and, potentially, also tissue damage in severe cases.

However, their venom affects animals, especially dogs, in a completely different manner. Dogs can quickly experience difficulty breathing, and if not treated rapidly by a vet, it will suffocate.

What to do if you encounter a snake?

• Keep a safe distance of three to five metres. No snake will rush over to attack any person, and this puts you well out of reach of a spitting snake’s venom.

• Do not try to kill the snake, as doing so will only cause the snake to defend itself, and you will also now be much closer to the snake, increasing the risk of being bitten.

• Call a qualified and permitted snake catcher to safely remove the snake. Download the free ASI Snakes app at www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com, which has a comprehensive list of snake rescuers closest to your area, as well as the latest information on snakes, spiders and scorpions, as well as first aid information.

• Make sure you keep a close eye on the snake, as they can disappear in the blink of an eye. Keeping an eye on it increases the odds that the snake catcher finds and removes the snake.

First aid

Should you or your pet be spat in the eyes by one of the spitting snakes (like the rinkhals), for first aid get the victim’s head under a tap and flush the affected eye/s with a mild flow of clean water for 10 to 15 minutes. This usually solves possible issues, but an antibiotic eye ointment may be required. Should it not clear up within the next day or two, consult an ophthalmologist.

In the unlikely event of a snakebite

• Keep the patient calm. The greater majority of bites from venomous snakes do not require antivenom, and the patient is often released from the hospital within a day or two.

• Transport them as safely and quickly possible to a hospital, preferably one with a trauma care facility.

• Don’t cut and suck the wound.

• Don’t apply any traditional remedies.

• Don’t give the patient alcohol or any form of medication as this could make it difficult for medical personnel to determine the severity of the bite.

• You do not have to kill the snake and take it with you to the hospital, as this will be of little use to the hospital staff. If possible, take a photo of the snake to aid in identification. This is, however, not critical as medical personnel will treat the symptoms of the bite and don’t need to know what kind of snake it was.

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