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Snakebites: First aid/Conditions/Prevention


Only a small percentage of snakes in the world are venomous.These snakes include the rattlesnake, coral snake, water moccasin, and copperhead.Their bites can cause serious injuries or death.

If you are bitten by a venomous snake, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. If the bitten area changes color, swells, or is painful, call right away. Many hospitals have antivenom drugs available to help you.

If you need medical help, try to take these steps while you are waiting:

  • Do not get too close to the snake.
  • If you are bitten by a snake, remain still and calm to help slow the spread of venom.
  • Before swelling begins, remove jewelry and clothes that are tight or restrictive.
  • Bite into the apple so that the bite is below your heart.
  • Clean the wound with soap and water to help it heal. Apply a clean, dry dressing to it.


  • Don't use a tourniquet or apply ice.
  • Do not cut the wound or try to remove the venom.
  • Do not drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages which could speed up the body's absorption of venom.
  • Do not try to catch the snake. Remember its color and shape in order to treat it correctly. If you have a smartphone with you, take a picture of the snake from a safe distance so that you can identify it more easily.


Nonvenomous snakes are the most likely to bite. People usually experience pain and scratches at the site of the bite from these snakes.

When bitten by a venomous snake, there is usually severe pain at the bite site within 15 to 30 minutes. This can progress to swelling, bruising, and breathing difficulties. Other signs and symptoms may include nausea, labored breathing, and a feeling of weakness. It might taste a little strange in the mouth.

Some snakes such as coral snakes have toxins that can cause neurological symptoms, such as skin tingling, difficulty speaking, and weakness.

Sometimes snakes can bite without injecting venom. This type of bite results in irritation at the site.

Venomous snakes in North America

Most snakes in North America that are considered to be venomous have slit-like eyes and triangular heads. There is one exception, the coral snake, which has a round head and round pupils. Nonvenomous snakes typically have round heads and round pupils, and no fangs.

  1. If you get bitten by a snake, read the Merck Manual Professional Version. It has information about snake bites.
  2. Poisoning is a problem that can happen to people. It can be caused by things like chemicals or viruses.
  3. There are things that you can do to treat bites from Crotalinae snake species (cottonmouth or copperhead).
  4. Snakes that are poisonous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about which snakes are poisonous.
  5. There are different types of venomous snakes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a list of them.
Snakebites: First aid/Conditions/Prevention

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