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Snake Bite

Medically reviewed by 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.


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.


At first you may need to rest in bed. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is okay 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 a bitten limb from moving. Ask your healthcare provider for more information and instructions on splint care.


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


  • Limb measurement may be done 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.
  • A neurologic exam can show healthcare providers how well your brain works after an injury or illness. A provider will check how your pupils react to light. He or she may check your memory and how easily you wake up. Your hand grasp and balance may also be tested.
  • 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.
  • Vital sign checks include your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, temperature, and pain level. Vital signs give information about your current health.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics may be given to treat a bacterial infection.
  • Antivenom is the main treatment for most poisonous snake bites. Antivenom is most effective if given within 4 hours of a snake bite. It neutralizes the venom, preventing it from causing more damage. You may need more than 1 dose. Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to papaya or other vaccines. You may be allergic to antivenom. Also tell your provider if you have other allergies or medical conditions.
  • Pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for more medicine.
  • Td vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent tetanus and diphtheria. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.


  • 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 are tested for the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. The results can tell healthcare providers how well your lungs are working.
  • Blood tests will give information about how your body is working.
  • A chest x-ray will show how well your lungs and heart are working.
  • A blood, urine, or bowel movement sample may be sent to a lab for tests.


You may have the following treatments alone or together:

  • A blood transfusion may be used to give you whole or parts of blood through an IV.
  • Dialysis cleans your blood when your kidneys cannot. Extra water, chemicals, and waste are removed from your blood by a machine. The machine passes your blood through a filter, then returns it back to you.
  • Surgery may be used to cut tissues covering muscles. This decreases pressure on blood vessels and nerves caused by swelling. Damaged and dead tissue 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.


  • Each snake gives a certain kind and amount of venom. How fast venom causes problems and how bad they are depends on the amount of venom you receive. Children usually develop more serious problems because of their smaller bodies. Even with treatment, your wound may become worse. You may get very sick from having the poison in your body.
  • Untreated snake bites may lead to swelling, bleeding, and infections. Severe swelling may press on blood vessels and nerves. 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 or swallowing. Your blood pressure may become very low. The venom may damage nerves. You could become paralyzed, have seizures, go into a coma, or die. People who have high blood pressure or a bleeding disorder are at a higher risk for problems.


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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.