Medication Guide App

Snake Bite

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Most snakes are not venomous. Some snakes inject venom that can act as a poison in your body. Even venomous snakes often bite without injecting venom. The venom may cause severe skin and tissue damage after several hours or days. A snake bite is a serious condition and can be life-threatening, although deaths in the US are rare.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

  • Venom from a snake bite may damage different parts of your body. How fast these problems occur and how bad they are depends on the amount of venom you receive. Different snakes give different kinds and amounts of venom. Children usually develop more serious problems because of their smaller bodies. Treatment for a snake bite may bring side effects. Antivenom may cause allergic reactions, such as a rash, itchiness, fever, and muscle pains. You may also have an upset stomach, diarrhea, headache, or trouble breathing. You may develop soreness, redness, or swelling in the muscle where a tetanus shot was given. Even with treatment, your wound may become worse, or you may get very sick from having the poison in your body.

  • Untreated snake bites may lead to more serious problems, such as swelling, bleeding, and infections. Severe swelling may press on the blood vessels and nerves in the area. The venom may spread to other parts of your body. You may have bleeding through your nose or other parts of your body. You may have trouble breathing and your blood pressure may become very low. The venom may damage nerves, and you could become paralyzed, have difficulty breathing or swallowing. You may have seizures, go into a coma, or die. People who have high blood pressure or bleeding problems are at a higher risk of problems.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Activity

At first you may need to rest in bed. Your caregiver will tell you when it is OK to get out of bed. Avoid moving the part of your body where you were bitten. You may need a splint or elastic bandage to prevent your bitten limb from moving it too much. Ask your caregiver for more information and instructions on splint care.

IV:

Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.

Monitoring:

  • Limb measurement: Your caregiver may use a measuring tape to measure around your bitten arm or leg. Your limb may be measured from time to time to see if it is getting larger. Limb measurement may be done every 15 to 20 minutes until the swelling in the bitten limb goes away.

  • Neurologic exam: This is also called neuro signs, neuro checks, or neuro status. A neurologic exam can show caregivers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. Caregivers will check how your pupils (black dots in the center of each eye) react to light. They may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.

  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Medicines:

You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotic medicine may be given to treat an infection caused by germs called bacteria.

  • Antivenom: This is the main treatment for poisonous snake bites. Most, but not all, poisonous snake bites need this treatment. This is most effective if given within four hours after you are bitten. It neutralizes the venom in your body, preventing it from causing more damage. You may need more than one dose of antivenom. People who are allergic to papaya or other vaccines may be allergic to antivenom. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any of these or have other allergies or medical conditions.

  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.

    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.

    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.

  • Td vaccine: This vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent diphtheria and tetanus. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.

Tests:

You may need one or more of the following tests:

  • Telemetry is continuous monitoring of your heart rhythm. Sticky pads placed on your skin connect to an EKG machine that records your heart rhythm.

  • Blood gases: This is also called an arterial blood gas, or ABG. Blood is taken from an artery (blood vessel) in your wrist, arm, or groin. Your blood is tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in it. The results can tell caregivers how well your lungs are working.

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.

  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.

  • Stool sample: A sample of your stool or bowel movement (BM) is sent to a lab for tests to check for blood.

  • Urine test: A sample of your urine is collected and sent to a lab for tests.

Treatment options:

You may have the following treatments alone or together:

  • Blood transfusion: You will get whole or parts of blood through an IV during a transfusion. Blood is tested for diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV, to be sure it is safe.

  • Dialysis: Dialysis cleans your blood when your kidneys cannot. Extra water, chemicals, and waste products are removed from your blood by a dialyzer or dialysis machine. The dialysis machine does this by passing your blood through a special filter, then returning it back to you. You may need dialysis for a short time, or for the rest of your life. Caregivers will check your vital signs often during dialysis. You may also be given medicines or have blood taken for lab tests during dialysis.

  • Surgery:

    • Fasciotomy: This is surgery to cut tissues covering the muscles. This decreases pressure on blood vessels and nerves caused by swelling of the injured muscle.

    • Wound cleaning: If the wound area of tissue damaged by venom becomes large, surgical cleaning may be done. Damaged and dead tissues from the wound will be removed with surgical cleaning.

  • A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. You may need a trach if an ET tube cannot be placed. A trach is a tube put through an incision and into your windpipe.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Snake Bite (Inpatient Care)

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