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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What are the complications of a venomous snake bite?

The complications of venomous snake bites can range from mild to severe. Complications include pain and swelling at the bite site, vision damage (from sprays especially), compartment syndrome (localized severe swelling that can damage or destroy nerves and blood vessels, leading to muscle necrosis), infection, limb loss, gangrene, sepsis, internal bleeding, cardiac damage, respiratory compromise, and even death.

Can a snake bite be prevented?

Many snake bites can be prevented as most snakes are not aggressive toward humans unless they sense danger. Consequently, avoidance of snakes usually prevents a bite, so people should not try to handle, capture or threaten (for example, tease with a stick) any snake. Statistical studies suggest that about 40% of all snake bites in the US occur in people that consumed alcohol drinks. If a person's workplace involves areas known to be a habitat of snakes, wearing protective boots, thick pants, and wearing gloves may reduce the chances of a snake bite; or at least it may reduce the bite trauma and the amount of venom distributed.

What is the prognosis for a venomous snake bite?

Most snake bites, when quickly and appropriately treated, have a good prognosis. If left untreated for various increasing lengths of time the prognosis usually diminishes while the complications increase. Deaths are unlikely as fewer than 10 deaths per year are due to snakebites in the US.

Medically reviewed by Avrom Simon, MD; Board Certified Preventative Medicine with Subspecialty in Occupational Medicine

REFERENCES: Venomous Snakes. Principles of snake bite management worldwide.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2015

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