Can banded Sea Snakes bite and kill divers?
“Sea Snakes have small mouths so can not bite humans except the skin between fingers and ear lobes” – Fake scuba myth!
An old friend of mine, Peter from New Zealand once mistakenly jumped onto a sea snake in the water from his boat when he went for a swim with some friends one evening. Peter was immediately bitten in the neck, luckily after being rushed to hospital to receiving a shot of antivenin and a few days rest within he lived to tell his tale. So sea snakes are able to bite humans anywhere on the body, despite appearing to have a very small mouth. Do not believe this scuba divers myth that the sea snake can only bite you between fingers and exposed ear lobes and therefore think it may be safe to do what you like to a sea snake so long as you cover your ears with your hands, as this is not true sea snakes can bite you anywhere if they so choose to do so.
Do Scuba Divers Get Bitten by Sea Snakes?
It is a very rare occurrence that a conscientious scuba diver is bitten by a sea snake, generally sea snakes have no interest in people and normally completely disregards divers presence in the water. However if the snake were to be antagonised or harassed by a diver the sea snake may feel threatened and might well defend itself from the diver. However fisherman in the pacific are the humans at most risk of bites when pulling catches from nets without looking when there is a snake caught within.
Are Sea Snakes Poisonous?
The banded sea snakes hunt in the sea for small fish and moray eels and returns to land to rest and digest its catch. They come equipped with a powerful neuro toxin to disable its prey.
Symptoms of a Sea Snakes Bite
In humans the toxin could give symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, swollen tongue, lethargy, muscle pain, paralysis, convulsions, and potentially death. At the site itself not much noticeable happens, except possibly 1 – numerous puncture marks.
Sea Snake Bite First Aid
As a bite from a Sea Snake is potentially life endangering, it is important to treat the wound as quickly and appropriately as possible. Fatality rates from sea snake bites are very low between 3%-25% depending on bite location and quantity of venom injected. But first aid steps should include
- Direct Pressure / Pressure Bandage
- Immobilise affected limb and keep below heart level
- Keep patient warm and relaxed and evacuate to EMS for antivenin shot (within 8 hours of bite)
Do not attempt to cut or puncture the bite site to suck out the venom like you may have seen in Hollywood movies
When are Sea Snakes around Koh Tao
We often get asked by novice divers or divers new to Koh Tao, what should they do if they encounter a sea snake. The banded sea snake also known as the Black-Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda semifasciata) is rarely sighted here on Koh Tao however it is seen most frequently between the months February until April here, but it may be encountered at any time during the year.