There are not that many snakes in Leicester City Centre, where I worked as a GP for nearly 25 years. There aren’t very many Mozambique Spitting Cobras, either. But yesterday morning, two toddlers came to Kakumbi Rural Health Centre after disturbing this venomous snake. To defend itself, the snake had spat venom at the children, aiming at their eyes. The children did not know that they should have closed their eyes, or looked away.
I had to think on my feet. Common sense dictated that we should wash out as much of the venom as possible. We started with tap water, but this made the children scream, so we switched to normal saline, directed into their eyes with the child draped over the sink in my consultation room. We spent about 20 minutes irrigating their eyes.
Dr David Warrell was a consultant physician at the Radcliffe Infirmary in 1978 when I was a junior doctor. He was very supportive when I voiced my desire to work overseas in developing countries. He was already the UK’s most prominent expert in the treatment of snake envenomation. When I got back to my room at the lodge, I looked up his advice in the reference texts kept for the valley doctor. Luckily, my common sense was spot on. I will ask to see the children next week and try to examine them with my ophthalmoscope to see if they need any further treatment.