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Snakebite - First Aid, Treatment, and Precautions

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Snakebite - First Aid, Treatment, and Precautions

3 min read


There are thousands of species of snakes and only a small percentage of them are venomous. This article speaks about the first aids and active management of a snake bite.

Written by

Dr. Vishnu K. R

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At February 1, 2019
Reviewed AtAugust 8, 2023


Snakes are deadly when they are venomous. They produce venom and consciously inject into the target to kill or immobilize them. Poisonous animals on the other hand, are dangerous by all means, sometimes even by mere touch. So snakes are not that fatal after all, but ruling out the fatal factors are crucial.

How to Identify a Venomous Snake?

Although it is beneficial if you give a good description of the snake to your casualty medical officer, I would not recommend you to go back to the snake once again to gather more details. Presenting the dead snake, if somehow it gets killed due to your resistance, will also do good. But again, do not attempt to go back to an angry snake which has already bit you. The venomous snakes have:

  1. Rounded tail end.
  2. Broadhead.
  3. Skinnier neck than nonvenomous snakes.
  4. Elliptical pupil.
  5. Additional pits behind nostril pits.
  6. Pointed nose or snout.
  7. Scales under the tail are in a single column.
  8. Fangs which leave a double puncture bite mark.

SB 1

How to Administer First Aid for Snakebites?

Now that we have an injured victim, no matter venomous or not, we should do first aid and bring him or her to the hospital.

  • Clean the area with soap and water for obvious reasons.
  • Keep the victim well rested, and find a wheelchair if available. Most of the time, it is the leg which gets bitten. So, preventing walking will not increase the circulation of venom much.
  • Tourniquet or any kind of ties above the level of the wound is now obsolete. It can cause unnecessary obstructions of blood flow, causing bigger complications and leading to amputations later.
  • Intermittent checking on the patient regarding his or her breathing and consciousness.

How Is Snakebite Treated in the Hospital?

Always be cautious not to release the brought snake in the hospital. The doctor will always advise 24-hour monitoring, which includes routine blood tests to know if the bleeding and clotting times are within normal limits. The patient will be asked to measure the urine output if necessary.

If there is any discrepancy or if the history is corresponding to a venomous snakebite, antisera should be started. An initial IV drip will be made at the beginning followed by routine monitoring, and then a subsequent dose if necessary will be given. As said earlier, not all of the bites need antisera. We have a single antiserum for the most common species of venomous snakes in the country. According to the region, some specific snake antivenom is not included in the polyvalent antivenom. But as the time advances, some brands provide them too.

What Are the Precautions to Be Taken?

Due to the behavior of the snakes to avoid contacts with humans, we do not encounter snakes daily. But snakes are very common in our neighborhood. They keep a "Do not come in search of me" attitude and sometimes we are the ones who offend them.

A triggered snake will always bite when it gets a chance. Do not promote any snake performers who always keep the snakes triggered for entertainment. You cannot make a snake pet, but you can only tame them. They have a very functional autonomic nervous system which makes them bite or run away when they encounter you. It is so sad that we sometimes end up getting it killed for our safety. So always, it is best to avoid contact. Use repellents if you want them to be away from your home.

Never underestimate a baby snake. Baby snakes inject high amounts of venom per bite as their ducts are immature and will not stop an outflow of venom. And they are difficult to identify too.

If you see a hooded head, it is probably a cobra. If you see an 'S' position ready to attack or ambush, it is probably a viper.

What to Do If Your Pet Brings a Dead Snake to the House?

A dead snake should be handled with care as the venomous glands, and the fangs can still deliver the venom. An accidental step on it will cause a trigger of reflexes leading to injection of venom. And you will not suspect a bite before you see blood coming out from your foot. So, always bury the head deep in the soil and safe from playing children. Cremation may cause a disfigured venomous debris among the ashes which can injure the ash handler.


In conclusion, prevention is better than cure. Always avoid contact. If contacted, always avoid getting bitten and try running away from it. If it is in your escape path, make ground vibrations to shoo it away. If it does not move, call for help. Be brave. With the help of modern medicine, we have successfully overcome the mortality rates.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does a Snakebite Appear?

The site on the body where the snake has bitten has the following signs.
- Double puncture marks at the bitten site.
- Red skin, swelling, and bluish discoloration begin as time progresses.
- Bleeding.
- Blistering around the damaged skin.
- Severe pain at the site of the bite.


Can You Treat a Snakebite Without the Help of an Antivenom Therapy?

After a snakebite, the survival of patients without antivenom treatment primarily depends on the type of snake that has bitten. If the bite was by simple snakes such as a coral snake, the majority of the patients would recover without any antivenom therapy. But, in the case of rattlesnake bites, it is fatal most of the time without treatment. Therefore, to prevent deadly complications, it is always advised to give proper medical attention in cases of snakebite.


How Long Does It Take For A Rattlesnake’s Venom To Kill A Person?

Rattlesnakes are among the most venomous snakes around the world. So, if a rattlesnake bites you, you can survive up to a maximum period of three days. Without treatment, the patient will get affected by tetanus, and later, all organs will start to fail. This is due to the effect of the venom. But, if proper treatment is given, patients recover from a crucial stage within 24 hours.


Which Snake’s Venom Can Rapidly Kill People?

The deadliest snake that causes the fastest mortality rate is the black mamba. When a black mamba bites a person, he or she might die within 20 minutes. If a person is suspected of having been bitten by a black mamba, especially in places where black mambas are commonly prevalent, medical treatment must be started within ten minutes. This will help in the prevention of death in that patient.


What Is the Ideal Method Of Treating A Snakebite?

Antivenom therapy is the standard treatment used in cases of snakebite. The most commonly used antivenom is Crotalidae. It is highly effective even against the venom of very poisonous snakes such as the rattlesnakes.


What Is Known As Envenoming?

Snakebite envenoming is a hazardous health condition. It is caused due to the administration of toxins in the form of venom through a snakebite. It could be fatal by both failure of treatment and the delay in the treatment. Envenoming occurs not only due to a snakebite, but it might also happen when a snake sprays its venom in a person’s eyes as a defense mechanism.


Can Snakebites Be Treated At Home?

Snakebites, especially when bitten by highly venomous snakes, hardly can be treated at home. Delay or absence of treatment could cause either death or other health problems. However, when a person is bitten by a snake, specific first aid can be done to prevent the severity of the condition.


What Are the Dos and Don'Ts After a Snakebite?

Once a person is noticed to be bitten by a snake, some certain dos and don'ts can be crucial to saving the person’s life. The dos are:
- The most important thing you should do is to note the time of the snakebite. This will help the physician to know how much time has passed after the snake has bitten until the person has been brought to the hospital.
- Remove any jewelry such as rings and bangles around the snakebite’s location before swelling starts to begin. This is because swelling can tighten the jewelry and cause severe pain.
- Use Paracetamol for pain at allowed doses, if needed.
- Rush to the hospital as soon as possible.
The don’ts are:
- Never try to catch or kill the snake. This can put you into a risk of a second bite, which could be life-threatening.
- Do not suck out the venom. It causes a potential risk that the toxin might be absorbed through the mouth.
- Never use Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or other painkillers that cause blood thinning.
- Do not apply a tourniquet as it might increase tissue damage in the bite site due to lack of blood supply.


How Can You Identify A Person Who Has Experienced A Snakebite?

Snakebite can be identified as the typical signs of snakebite. It includes a double puncture wound, redness, blisters, and bluish discoloration at the wound site. Additionally, in severe cases, patients might be seen with signs of tetany. It includes diarrhea, excessive sweating, tearing, and pinpoint pupils. Whenever you notice a patient with the following symptoms, it is essential to rush the patient to the hospital.


Can A Snake’s Venom Kill Itself?

No, a snake’s venom can never kill itself. This is because of the particular adaptations snakes have in them. It includes the saliva, which has the power to detoxify minimal amounts of venom and the cells in the digestive system that can also detoxify toxin. However, snakes can die due to the venom administered due to a bite by another snake.


Can Benadryl Cure Snakebites?

The information that Benadryl can detoxify the venom of a snakebite is a myth. The only way of treating a snakebite is by antivenom therapy. It is done by medical experts.


How Can You Prevent Snakebites?

The following are the various methods by which you can prevent a snakebite.
- Avoid traveling to places such as forests, where snakes might live.
- Do not try to threaten the snake, as it might get triggered to attack you.
- Watch where you step and where you sit when you are outdoors.
- Wear loose, long pants and high, thick leather or rubber boots, especially
when traveling to forests, or damp and dense places.


How Do You Escape When You Encounter Rattlesnakes On Your Way?

When you encounter a rattlesnake in your away, try not to threaten or attack it. Walk in the opposite direction. If the snake moves towards you, try to give its way so that it may leave quietly. If you find a stick nearby, cautiously take and tap it on the ground as it might move from the place. These are different ways to scare a rattlesnake.


What Should You Do If Bitten by a Poisonous Snake?

A poisonous snakebite patient would require immediate medical care.
- First aid is necessary, and it should be done in a hospital by professionals.
- Ask the patient not to panic and keep him calm.
- Call a medical ambulance service.
- Do not wash, suck, or cut the injured site.
- Do not apply ice.
- It is necessary to apply pressure immobilization bandages.
- The patient should be allowed to walk or move.
- Remove all the tight fighting clothes, rings, and watch.
- The patient should not drink caffeine and alcohol.


What Is the First Aid for a Snakebite?

The methods of first aid depending on the condition of the patient after the snakebite. It is essential to apply pressure immobilization bandages. The patient should be kept free from anxiety. If the patient panics, then the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure will be drastically increased. Sucking the wound and washing it with water should be avoided. Call an emergency ambulance service. The patient will be admitted and will be given antivenom treatment.


What Are the Symptoms Experienced by a Patient After Snakebite?

The symptoms experienced by the patient after a snakebite are as follows.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Watery diarrhea.
- Difficulty in breathing. Sometimes, in severe cases, the absence of breathing may also be seen.
- Rushing heartbeats.
- Weak peripheral pulses.
- A fall in blood pressure.
- Disturbed or blurred vision.
- Metallic, mint, or rubber-like taste.
- Increase in salivation and sweating.
- Numbness or tingling around the person’s face and limbs.
- Muscle twitching.
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Dr. Vishnu K. R
Dr. Vishnu K. R

General Practitioner


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