Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Snake Bites

Snake Bites

The danger of snake bites:

Each year, the American Association of Poison Control Centers receives reports of approximately 5,000 snake bites. Even a bite from a so-called "harmless" snake can cause infection or allergic reaction in some people. For maximum safety, treat all snake bites as if they were venomous and get to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible, especially if you are unsure of the exact type of snake responsible for the bite. With the correct treatment (or antivenin), severe illness and/or death can be prevented. (Antivenin, also called antivenom, is an antitoxin specific to the venom of a particular animal or insect).

People who frequent wilderness areas, camp, hike, picnic, or live in snake-inhabited areas should be aware of the potential dangers posed by venomous snakes. These people should:

What snakes are venomous?

The most common venomous snake bites are caused by the following snakes:

Rattlesnake bites cause most of the venomous bites in the US. Coral snakes and imported exotic snakes cause a much smaller number of snake bites.

What are the symptoms of venomous bites?

The following are the most common symptoms of venomous snake bites. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently, and some may not have symptoms for a period of time. In addition, different snakes have different types of venom, so the symptoms may differ. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of a venomous snake bite may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Treatment for snake bites:

Call for emergency assistance immediately if someone has been bitten by a snake. Responding quickly in this type of emergency is crucial. While waiting for emergency assistance:

Preventing snake bites:

Some bites, such as those inflicted when you accidentally step on a snake in the woods, are nearly impossible to prevent. However, there are precautions that can reduce your chances of being bitten by a snake, including the following:

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