Snake Bite (Snakebite)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Steven Doerr, MD
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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Poisonous Snake Bites

The U.S is home to many poisonous snakes, including these four snakes: coral snake, rattlesnake, water moccasin, and copperhead. Bite symptoms may include

  • severe burning pain at the bite site,
  • swelling that spreads out from the bite,
  • weakness,
  • trouble breathing,
  • and changes in heart rate.

Bite severity depends on many factors, including the amount of venom injected, bite location, and a person's age and health. Seek immediate medical care if you think you've been bitten by a poisonous snake.

What is a venomous (poisonous) snake bite?

A venomous (poisonous) snake bite is a bite or a puncture wound made by a snake that is capable of injecting, secreting, or spitting a toxin into the penetrated skin wound or, mucus membranes or the eyes where the toxin can be absorbed. In North America, there are about 25 species of snakes able to secrete toxin. However, non-native poisonous species are present in zoos and held in private homes or other areas by snake collectors. Consequently, almost any type of venomous snake bite can be encountered in the US. About 7,000 snake bites are reported in the US per year, but because snake bites are not required to be reported, it is estimated that up to 45,000 bites per year may occur with about 8,000 by poisonous snakes. The most common venomous snakes in the US are rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins, and coral snakes.

What is a nonvenomous (nonpoisonous) snake bite?

A nonvenomous (nonpoisonous) snake bite is a bite or puncture wound made by a snake that is incapable of secreting a toxin. This should be distinguished from a dry bite. A dry bite is a bite by a venomous snake that does not inject any toxin. Even bites that are from a nonvenomous snake or are dry need to be evaluated as they can lead to significant tissue damage or infections.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2015

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