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Cactus juice no cure for snake bites and scorpion stings

A post shared more than 260 times on Facebook claims that cactus juice can be used as an “anti poison” for a snake bite or scorpion sting. 

“Firstly tighten the next joint of the victim's body to avoid over spreading, then make some razor cuts in about 4 inches distance to the bite spot and apply CACTUS JUICE watch d different of the blood that comes out of the cuts in d next 30 seconds,” it reads. 

It was posted on a page with the handle @AlternativeMedicineZambia, which has nearly 230,000 followers. Is this sound advice? We checked. 

No proof natural remedies work

Snake bites can be dangerous – even deadly. Their symptoms vary but can include severe paralysis, difficulty breathing, bleeding and kidney failure. 

Prof Timothy Hardcastle, co-chair of the South Africa’s National Snakebite Advisory Group, advised against the treatment in the Facebook post. 

“There is no medical proof that any home remedies or traditional medicines are effective against snakebite,” he said. He warned that using a  tourniquet – a device to apply pressure to a limb – can lead to a person losing that limb. 

Seek medical attention urgently

It’s important to act quickly if you are bitten by a snake, Dr Jenna Taylor, head of the clinical unit in the department of anaesthesia at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban, told Africa Check. 

“Seek urgent medical attention. Do not waste time on home remedies or attempts to kill the snake,” she said. 

The main treatment for a poisonous snake bite is antivenom, says the World Health Organization. The treatment works by boosting the immune system to fight off the poison. The type of antivenom used depends on the species of snake. 

The health agency recommends the following steps when a person is bitten by a snake:

  1. Move the person away from the snake, to avoid another attack

  2. Seek medical attention immediately

  3. Remove any tight clothing around the bite wound

  4. You may give the person paracetamol for the pain

  5. Monitor the person’s breathing

According to the Mayo Clinic, a US-based nonprofit academic medical centre, an adult may not need medical care if they are stung by a scorpion. But if a child is stung, the wound should be cleaned and an ice pack applied. The child can be given pain medication while medical attention is sought. – Mandy Lombo


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