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Snake Bite


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.



  • Pain medicine: You may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You will need to follow up with your healthcare provider to make sure your bite is healing. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Prevent another snake bite:

Snake bites are most common when the weather is warm. Snakes are more active in warm weather, and people spend more time outdoors. Snakes bite to defend themselves when they feel threatened. If you accidently step on a snake, you may be bitten on the foot or leg. This usually occurs when the snake is not moving and not seen, or is hidden by plants.

  • Dress to protect yourself: Wear shoes or boots and pants to protect your feet and legs.
  • Learn what poisonous snakes look like: Learn to recognize poisonous snakes, especially if you spend time outdoors. Learn which poisonous snakes can be found where you live or spend time outdoors, and what they look like.
  • Learn where snakes may be found: Snakes rest in cool, shaded areas during hot weather, and in warm sunny spots in cool weather. Do not put your hands or fingers into holes or places you cannot see.
  • Leave snakes alone: Do not try to catch, frighten, or attack a snake. Back away and do not try to touch the snake. Do not pick up a snake that appears to be dead. Even dead snakes can deliver venom through their fangs. Rattlesnakes shake the ends of their tails to make a rattle sound that warns that it feels threatened. If you hear a rattlesnake, move away quickly.
  • Light your path: Use a flashlight or lamp when you walk outside at night. Do not walk in areas where you cannot see the ground.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your wound gets larger or becomes more red and has pus.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You feel dizzy, have a fever, start throwing up, or sweat more than usual.
  • You develop swelling, redness, or more pain around your bite.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing, or your skin is red, swollen, or more painful.
  • You have problems moving the injured part.
  • You have numbness or tingling in the area of the bite.
  • You have tightness in your throat, wheezing, a swollen tongue, or a rash over your body.
  • Your urine is dark or you urinate less than is usual for you.
  • Your wound does not stop bleeding, or have bleeding through your nose or other parts of your body.

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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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Snake Bite (Aftercare Instructions)

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