Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Snakebite Overview

What is a snakebite?
A person with a snakebite has a puncture wound or laceration to the skin, caused by the fangs of a snake. Venomous snakebites can damage the skin and cause severe allergic reactions. Early treatment with antivenom can prevent a serious reaction. Death from snakebite is very rare.

What are the symptoms of a snakebite?
Symptoms of a snakebite include a painful puncture wound, as well as tenderness, swelling, redness, bruising, or numbness around the wound. Additional symptoms may include skin blisters near the bite, a rash, vomiting, diarrhea, and faintness. Symptoms of venomous snakebites include difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, excessive salivation, tremors, arm or leg swelling, blood in the urine, blood in the stool, confusion, or fainting.

How does the doctor treat a snakebite?
General treatment for a snakebite may include wound care, intravenous fluids, and tetanus vaccination. Antivenin is the only effective treatment for a venomous snakebite.

Continue to Snakebite Incidence

Last Updated: Feb 11, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Snakebite References
  1. Dart RC, Hurlbut KM, Garcia R, Boren J. Validation of a severity score for the assessment of crotalid snakebite. Ann Emerg Med. 1996 Mar;27(3):321-6. [8599491]
  2. Dart RC, Seifert SA, Boyer LV, et al. A randomized multicenter trial of crotalinae polyvalent immune Fab (ovine) antivenom for the treatment for crotaline snakebite in the United States. Arch Intern Med. 2001 Sep 10;161(16):2030-6. [11525706]
  3. McKinney PE. Out-of-hospital and interhospital management of crotaline snakebite. Ann Emerg Med. 2001 Feb;37(2):168-74. [11174235]
  4. Morandi N, Williams J. Snakebite injuries: contributing factors and intentionality of exposure. Wilderness Environ Med. 1997 Aug;8(3):152-5. [11990155]
  5. Pantanowitz L, Guidozzi F. Management of snake and spider bite in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 1996 Oct;51(10):615-20. [8888039]
  6. Terry P, Mackway-Jones K. Towards evidence based emergency medicine: best BETs from the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Antibiotics in non-venomous snakebite. Emerg Med J. 2002 Mar;19(2):142. [11904264]
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