Diplomate, Board Certification of Emergency Medicine
Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine Ma'ayenei Hayeshua
Before we continue our series, I must say a word about three
new issues that are health concerns among Israelis. You all
know about my usual points: stop smoking, buckle your
children in the automobile, exercise and eat well, have
children wear helmets while biking. I'd like to add some new
There is a man in the shul where I daven who
gives snuff to children. While one-time use is unlikely to be
dangerous, I remind you that all tobacco products are
dangerous and cause addiction with much the same mechanisms
as street drugs. Snuff, chewing tobacco, and giving children
a chance to smoke on Purim are all encouragement to
destructive health behaviors when they grow up.
Second, Israelis in Bnei Brak and Kiryat Sefer at least have
a habit of pushing their strollers in the street instead of
on the sidewalk. There are streets that do not have enough
room for both buses and carriages.
Third, many Israelis pump their children with dangerous
foods. Snack foods and chocolate cream sandwiches are a
health nightmare. Bamba, spicy snacks, and sugared cereals
should be used as only occasional treats if at all.
Let's return to our topic of bites. Reptile bites are quite
common, especially snakes. Venomous snakes such as the Fer de
Lance in South America, the King Cobra in Asia and the Death
Adder in Australia can cause death fairly frequently. Their
bites are seen mostly among snake handlers and unsuspecting
tourists who venture to exotic places without proper
preparation. This practice is common among secular
In Israel, the most common venous snakes are the Palestinian
Viper and Burton's Carpet Viper, mostly found in the
Jerusalem and Dead Sea areas. They both tend to avoid humans,
and bite when threatened or surprised, so one should avoid
this by not sticking hands in holes, garbage dumps, or
overturning rocks. High shoes made of leather should be worn
while hiking. Standing perfectly still is the best measure if
a snake is close by.
Should a bite occur, the limb should be immobilized and the
person rushed to the hospital. Many times the bite is dry,
that is without the injection of venom. Making cuts in the
skin, sucking out the poison, using ice, or tourniquets are
dangerous practices. Antivenom exists for many snakes, but
the treatment itself may be dangerous too. Let your doctor
There are only two poisonous lizards in the world. One is the
Gila monster, whose biting mechanism is not very efficient --
it doesn't have sharp teeth -- and bad effects from its bite
are rare. It is found in Arizona. The other lizard is found
in Mexico. Lizards such as iguanas and chameleons are often
kept as pets. One should always wash his hands after
handling, as they carry the bacteria called salmonella.
There is a poisonous frog -- the brightly colored dart frog
of South America. Another bad reptile bite we'll mention is
the crocodile. More on that another time.
A message from Glaxo, sponsor of this column. Once
again I had a patient who had received improper migraine
therapy. The drug of choice is now Naramig or Imitrex. It
works consistently -- speak to your doctor.