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Snake Bite
(Snakebite)

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What is a venomous (poisonous) snake bite?

A venomous (poisonous) snake bite is a bite or a puncture wound made by a snake that is capable of injecting, secreting, or spitting a toxin into the penetrated skin wound, mucus membranes or the eyes where the toxin can be absorbed. In North America, there are about 25 species of snakes able to secrete toxin. However, non-native poisonous species are present in zoos and held in private homes or other areas by snake collectors. Consequently, almost any type of venomous snake bite can be encountered in the US. About 7,000 snake bites are reported in the US per year, but because snake bites are not required to be reported, it is estimated that up to 45,000 bites per year may occur with about 8,000 by poisonous snakes. The most common venomous snakes in the US are rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins, and coral snakes.

What is a nonvenomous (nonpoisonous) snake bite?

A nonvenomous (nonpoisonous) snake bite is a bite or puncture wound made by a snake that is incapable of secreting a toxin. This should be distinguished from a dry bite. A dry bite is a bite by a venomous snake that does not inject any toxin. Even bites that are from a nonvenomous snake or are dry need to be evaluated as they can lead to significant tissue damage or infections.

What are the symptoms of a venomous snake bite?

The symptoms of a venomous snakebite depend on the type of toxin(s) secreted into the bite or puncture wound, and in part, on how much toxin is present in the tissue. The types of symptoms produced can be grouped into four groups:

  • Cardiotoxins: act on heart tissue
  • Neurotoxins: act on nervous system tissue
  • Cytotoxins: act on tissue at the site of the bite or on tissue that directly absorbs the toxin
  • Hemotoxins: act on the blood coagulation system and may cause internal bleeding

Some toxins may cause more than one of these effects. Because of the various symptoms that can occur with venomous snake bites, the potential signs and symptoms to look for, as listed by the CDC include the following:

  • A pair of puncture marks at the wound
  • Redness and swelling around the bite
  • Severe pain at the site of the bite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Labored breathing (in extreme cases, breathing may stop altogether)
  • Disturbed vision
  • Increased salivation and sweating
  • Numbness or tingling around the face and/or limbs

Symptoms from these toxins are somewhat variable and may occur quickly or they may be delayed for hours, depending on the toxin type and the amount absorbed. In general, small children are more vulnerable to snake bites because the relative larger amount of toxin absorbed in relation to their smaller body size can make the toxin effect more potent.

Identification of the snake helps emergency health care professionals to both anticipate the potential symptoms, and it allows for more rapid and appropriate treatment of the venomous snake bite. A detailed description of the snake, a picture of the snake, or the snake itself (dead) will help identify the type of snake and the type of toxin. Time should not be wasted, however, in transporting the patient to an appropriate health care facility and do not put others in jeopardy of getting bitten.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/5/2013

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Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/snake_bite/article.htm

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