Pit Viper Venom Vs. Coral Snake Venom
Snake venom comes in different types, and even snakes of the same family sometimes vary in venom potency. When it comes to the two most deadly snake types in America, though, there are two venoms you need to be familiar with.
Pit Viper Venom
With the exception of a handful of Mojave rattlers, pit vipers in the United States use a hemotoxic venom. Hemotoxic venom attacks the blood and body tissue. "Hemo" means blood, and this toxin is known for attacking red blood cells. The toxin mirrors your body's natural blood-clotting agents, and some types quickly clot the blood, often inside the kidneys. Other types cause the blood not to clot, leaving victims with uncontrolled bleeding.
But hemotoxin doesn't stop at harming blood cells. It attacks other tissue as well, including internal organs, where it can lead to inflammation and, potentially, death. For the pit viper, the advantage of hemotoxin is that it actually breaks down and digests its meal before its prey dies, which helps explain why this venom symptoms comes on slowly.
Coral Snake Venom
The coral snake's venom is the second deadliest in the world (the first is the black mamba). Unlike pit vipers, coral snakes use a neurotoxin to subdue their victims. Instead of attacking blood and tissue, neurotoxins attack the nerve tissue. Effects come on slowly, and the bite may not be particularly painful. But after a few hours, symptoms develop like slurred speech, muscle weakness, blurred vision, and difficulty swallowing and breathing. Total paralysis can set in in as little as 12 hours.