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Snakebite (cont.)

Snakebite Prognosis

Although the vast majority of victims bitten by venomous snakes in the United States do very well, predicting the prognosis in any individual case can be difficult. Despite the fact that there may be as many as 8000 bites by venomous snakes, there are very few deaths (in the United States), and most of these fatal cases do not seek care for one reason or another. It is rare for someone to die before they are able to reach medical care in the United States. The majority of snakes are not poisonous if they bite. If a person is bitten by a nonvenomous snake, they will recover. The possible complications of a nonvenomous bite include a retained tooth in the puncture wounds or a wound infection (including tetanus). Snakes do not carry or transmit rabies.

A victim who is very young, old, or has other diseases may not tolerate the same amount of venom as well as a healthy adult. The availability of emergency medical care and, most important, antivenin can affect how well the victim recovers.

Serious venom effects can be delayed for hours. A victim who initially appears well could still become quite sick. All victims possibly bitten by a venomous snake should seek medical care without delay. The faster the patient is treated appropriately for a poisonous snakebite, the better the prognosis.

Snakebite. King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), a dangerous Asian elapid and longest of the venomous snakes at around 4 m (13 ft). Photograph by Joe McDonald.
Snakebite. King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), a dangerous Asian elapid and longest of the venomous snakes at around 4 m (13 ft). Photograph by Joe McDonald. Click to view larger image.

Snakebite. Black mamba (Dendraspis polylepis), an extremely fast, large, and dangerous African elapid. Photograph by Joe McDonald.
Snakebite. Black mamba (Dendraspis polylepis), an extremely fast, large, and dangerous African elapid. Photograph by Joe McDonald. Click to view larger image.

Snakebite. Coral snake (Micrurus fulvius), a shy American elapid that accounts for only about 1% of venomous snakebites in the United States. Recognize it by this catch phrase: Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Photograph by Joe McDonald.
Snakebite. Coral snake (Micrurus fulvius), a shy American elapid that accounts for very few of venomous snakebites in the United States. Recognize it by this catch phrase: "Red on yellow, kill a fellow." Photograph by Joe McDonald.Click to view larger image.

Snakebite. Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), a harmless mimic of the coral snake. "Red on black, venom lack," although this old saying becomes unreliable south of the United States. Photograph by Joe McDonald.
Snakebite. Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), a harmless mimic of the coral snake. "Red on black, venom lack," although this old saying becomes unreliable south of the United States. Photograph by Joe McDonald. Click to view larger image.

Snakebite. Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), an American pit viper, with rattle vibrating. This is one of the most dangerous snakes of North America. Photograph by Joe McDonald.
Snakebite. Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), an American pit viper, with rattle vibrating. This is one of the most dangerous snakes of North America. Photograph by Joe McDonald. Click to view larger image.

Snakebite. Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), American pit viper, caught yawning after a big meal. Photograph by Joe McDonald.
Snakebite. Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), American pit viper, caught yawning after a big meal. Photograph by Joe McDonald. Click to view larger image.

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Snakebite. Cottonmouth or water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorous), American pit viper usually found in or near water. Photograph by Joe McDonald.Click to view larger image.

Snakebite. Northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), an American pit viper. Bites by this species tend to be less severe than rattlesnake or water moccasin bites but still require urgent medical attention. Photograph by Joe McDonald.
Snakebite. Northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), an American pit viper. Bites by this species tend to be less severe than rattlesnake or water moccasin bites but still require urgent medical attention. Photograph by Joe McDonald. Click to view larger image.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/12/2016

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