Most North American snakes aren't dangerous to humans. Some exceptions include the rattlesnake, coral snake, water moccasin and copperhead. Their bites can be life-threatening.
If you are bitten by a venomous snake, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, especially if the area changes color, begins to swell or is painful. Many hospitals stock antivenom drugs, which may help you.
If possible, take these steps while waiting for medical help:
- Remain calm and move beyond the snake's striking distance.
- Remove jewelry and tight clothing before you start to swell.
- Position yourself, if possible, so that the bite is at or below the level of your heart.
- Clean the wound, but don't flush it with water. Cover it with a clean, dry dressing.
- Don't use a tourniquet or apply ice.
- Don't cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom.
- Don't drink caffeine or alcohol, which could speed the rate at which your body absorbs venom.
- Don't try to capture the snake. Try to remember its color and shape so that you can describe it, which will help in your treatment.
July 28, 2015
- What to do in a medical emergency: Bites and stings. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/Default.aspx?id=210&terms=snake+bites. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015.
- Tintinalli JE, et al. Reptile bites. In: Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015.
- Venomous snakes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/snakes/. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015.
- Subbarao I, et al., eds. Animal and insect bites. In: American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care. New York, N.Y.: Random House; 2009.
- Snakebites. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/injuries_poisoning/bites_and_stings/snakebites.html. Accessed Feb. 26, 2015.