Turtles are sweet and incredible animals, and have been on the earth for millions of years. There are those that live in fresh water and those that live in the sea, although some of them live on land. The exterior body of a turtle is made of a hard shell, in which they hide themselves when they are threatened by predators.
Before looking at the medical implications of a snapping turtle bite, you should get to know a few facts about them, so you understand why you should handle them with care.
- The alligator snapping turtle
This is one of the largest freshwater turtle and is the official animal for New York. They can grow to be very big and are therefore very dangerous when you do not handle them with care. The largest one was found to weigh 249 pounds and was owned by the Chicago Shedd Aquarium. This turtle has a very large head and nose, and has three tall ridges on top of the shell.
- These turtles avoid human contact
Snapping turtles will generally avoid contact with humans in any circumstance. They spend most of their lives living underwater to avoid human contact. However, when they get on land and come across a human, they can get very aggressive. This is because they come on land during the nesting season and will fight to protect their eggs or their young.
- These turtles do bite
A snapping turtle can be quite powerful, although not as much as a human being. A snapping turtle can exert a force of over 600 Newton when biting, but a human can exert twice the force between the second molars. What makes the bite of a snapping turtle frightening are the sharp beaks, which can shear with a lot of force. An alligator turtle can slice your fingers off with just a single bite. An adult alligator turtle can bite a broomstick in half, so you can imagine what it can do to you if you are not careful.
Now that you have understood some facts about the snapping turtle, we can look at what to do when you are bitten by one.
People are find of keeping snapping turtles in their homes as pets, and like any other pet, if can bite you if it feels threatened by you. You may be feeding it and it latches on your hands accidentally, or it can bite when you mishandle it. The turtle may seem small in your home, but the bite can cause you a lot of pain and discomfort. A bite from a snapping turtle needs immediate treatment since it can transfer highly infectious germs from its mouth, and cause tissue infection. The wound should be treated with all antiseptic measures.
Symptoms of a snapping turtle bite
The mouth of a turtle is very sharp and even the smallest ones can cause you some serious injury, depending on where the bite is. They are not normally aggressive and the bites are mainly accidental. The bites mostly occur on the fingers and toes, but sometimes on the face if you bring it too close to your face or mouth.
The severity of the bite varies depending on the location of the bite and the size of the turtle. It can just be a small bruise, or it can be torn tissues with blood oozing out of the wound. There is a lot of pain and swelling around the area of the bite, and there may be a lot of inflammation and redness of the surrounding tissues.
It is common for people to get a bacterial infection after a snapping turtle bite. Salmonella germs are found on the skin and mouth of these creatures and they get into the wound during the bite. One may experience secondary symptoms due to the infection of the bite, and these include pus, pain, headaches, fever, among many others. The symptoms can get very severe if the person bitten has a suppressed immune system.
First aid and treatment for a snapping turtle bite
A snapping turtle will only bite when it is surprised or provoked, and the bites can be very discomforting. You should treat the bite in the same way that you would treat any wound. You should relax and let the turtle release the bite. Sometimes it may require immersing the turtle in water.
Start off by cleaning the wound using a clean cloth or gauze and rinse the bite with water. Then apply some disinfectant lotion to the wound. Check to see if the bite is deep or superficial. You should also apply an antibacterial ointment on the wound to avoid more infection. Get some sterilised gauze and wrap the area.
Once the first aid is done, you should go to the doctor who will assess the wound ad see if you need further treatment or injections to ward off any serious infections. You will also get a tetanus shot.