Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.
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.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You have chest pain or trouble breathing.
- You have tightness in your throat, wheezing, or a swollen tongue.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have a rash over your body.
- You feel dizzy, have a fever, start vomiting, or sweat more than usual.
- You develop swelling, redness, or more pain around your bite.
- 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.
- 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.
Call your doctor if:
- Your wound gets larger or becomes more red and has pus.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider 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.
First aid for a snake bite:
- Stay calm, sit or lie down, and stay still. Avoid moving the part of your body where you were bitten. Too much movement may help spread the venom to other parts of your body. If the bite is on your arm or leg, use a splint if possible to keep the limb still.
- Do not try to treat the bite or remove the venom. Never cut into a snake bite wound. You could spread the venom. Do not try to remove the venom. Snake bites need to be treated as quickly as possible by a medical professional. Do not try to treat the wound with heat, cold, or electric shock.
- Remove items. Remove tight-fitting clothing and jewelry items such as rings, watches, and bracelets near your bite. Do not apply a tourniquet to the wound area.
- Keep the bitten area below the level of your heart, if possible. The venom will spread more slowly if the wound stays below the level of your heart.
- See a healthcare provider right away. Do not wait until you have symptoms.
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. This usually occurs when the snake is not moving and not seen, or is hidden by plants. The following can help you prevent a snake bite:
- Dress to protect yourself. Wear shoes or boots to protect your feet. Wear pants to protect your legs.
- Learn where snakes may be found. Snakes rest in cool, shaded areas during hot 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 slowly. 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.
Follow up with your doctor as directed:
You will need to make sure your bite is healing. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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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.
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