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Snakebite (cont.)

Snakebite Follow-up

A snakebite victim who has been released from the hospital should return to medical care immediately if he or she develops any worsening symptoms, especially trouble breathing, change in mental status, evidence of bleeding, worsening pain, or worsening swelling.

Someone who has received antivenin treatment for snakebite should return to medical care if any signs of serum sickness develop (fever, muscle or joint aches or swelling, hives). This complication usually occurs within 5-10 days after administration of antivenin.

A snakebite victim (particularly a rattlesnake bite) should, for the first few weeks, warn his or her physician of this fact before any routine or emergency surgery. Some snake venoms can cause difficulty in blood clotting for a week or more after the bite.

Snakebite Prevention

The snake is almost always more scared of the human, than the human is of the snake, it is assumed because giving the snake the opportunity to escape prevents most bites. However, most snakes will try to bite if cornered or frightened.

  • Do not attempt to handle, capture, or tease venomous snakes or snakes of unknown identity. In the US, a large percent of snakebites occur when the victim tries to capture a snake or handles a snake carelessly.
  • Snakebites are often associated with alcohol use. Alcohol intake can weaken a person's inhibitions, making it more likely that they might attempt to pick up a snake. Alcohol also decreases coordination, increasing the probability of a mishap.
  • Individuals can help prevent significant bites by wearing boots while hiking or working where snakes may live. Long pants can reduce the severity of a bite. When in snake country, be cautious where you place your hands and feet (for example, when gathering firewood or collecting berries), and never walk barefooted.
  • If a person's occupation or hobby exposes them to dangerous snakes on a regular basis, preplanning before a potential bite may save a life. Since not every physician is familiar with snakebites and not every hospital has or knows how to obtain antivenin, providing information regarding the type of snake, type of venom, and the procurement and use of antivenom can help the medical staff treat the victim.
  • Local poison control centers will usually have a listing of the local facilities with antivenins. The contact number for the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can help direct anyone in the US to local facilities with appropriate antivenin stock.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/12/2016

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