The Top 10 Things to Know About Snakebites

Snakebites can be deadly if untreated

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Think snakes are cool? Or terrifying? No matter what your feelings are, you'll have the same reaction to a poisonous snakebite.

Not all snakes are poisonous, but venomous snake bites can kill. That's what you probably already know. But what you don't know about snake bites might help save your life.

"Seek medical help immediately if you're bitten by a snake."

Snakes live all over the world, in close proximity to humans. The best thing to do around wild snakes is avoid them.

But say you're walking out in nature, and come face to face with a threatening-looking slitherer who brings you to a halt. As you decide your plan of action, here are ten things to keep in mind.

1. All snakes bite. But not all snakes are venomous, and even venomous snakes don't always deliver poison in their bite. However, it's a possibility, and if you are bitten by a venomous snake you should seek medical attention immediately.

2. You can tell by looking at a snake's head shape whether it is poisonous or not. A venomous snake often has a broad and triangular-shaped head. They have a pit between the eye and nostril, a characteristic which gave them the name pit vipers.

A nonvenomous snake has a smooth cap over its head and a skinnier headshape.

3. If you've been bitten, it's even easier to tell if the snake is venomous or not. A venomous snake leaves two puncture wounds with their fangs.

A nonvenomous snake leaves a semicircular, smile-shaped wound. (Smile! You have not been bitten by a poisonous snake!)

4. If possible, take note of the characteristics of the snake that bit you. Knowing what type of snake was responsible will allow medical professionals to give you the right treatment.

5. You may have seen it done in the movies, but sucking the venom out is not a good course of action. Suction and tourniquets might make the situation worse.

6. In the case of a severe bite, you might be treated with antivenin. It serves to neutralize the snake venom in your body.

7. Medical care for a venomous snake bite can cost up to $50,000, according to Jill Heatley, associate professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A & M University. You may be hospitalized for a day to several weeks and antivenin is expensive.

8. Snake bites are responsible for 20,000 deaths around the world each year.

9. Your pet is likely at higher risk for a snake bite than you are, especially if you let your cat or dog wander off leash. Provoked snakes commonly bite dogs on their noses, and cats on their paws.

Pets also require immediate treatment, and may die within 12 or 24 hours from venom spreading through their bodies.

10. Best practices to avoid snake bites include wearing pants and boots when walking in potential snake habitats, moving backwards away from a snake that's been sighted in your path, and never attempting to pick up or handle a snake as you've seen animal trainers do on TV.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 25, 2012
Last Updated:
May 7, 2012