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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 need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell your healthcare provider if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • 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 or 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.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

First aid for a snake bite:

Do not cut into the wound, or apply suction to try and remove the venom. Do not use tourniquets, or apply heat, cold, or electric shock to the bite area.

  • 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, immobilize the limb with a splint if possible.
  • Remove items: Remove tight-fitting clothing and jewelry items such as rings, watches, and bracelets near your bite.
  • Keep the bitten area below the level of your heart: 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 before you see a healthcare provider.

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 venomous snakes look like: Learn to recognize venomous snakes, especially if you spend time outdoors. Learn which venomous 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. 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.

Seek care immediately or call 911 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.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 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 CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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 (Discharge Care)

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