Both poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes bite people. Poisonous snakes may inject venom (poison) when they bite. In the United States, people rarely die from snakebites. Some other countries have different poisonous snakes that kill many people.
Only a few types of poisonous snakes live in the United States:
Most poisonous bites are caused by rattlesnakes. Coral snake bites are very rare.
Nonpoisonous snakebites cause small puncture wounds that are slightly painful. However, if you're scared about being bitten, you may breathe fast, feel sweaty and sick to your stomach, and feel your heart pounding. These symptoms may make you think you have a poisonous snakebite.
Poisonous snakebites cause different symptoms depending on:
Not all pit viper bites involve venom. If the bite doesn't hurt or swell in the first 30 to 60 minutes, you probably didn't get any venom. If the bite oozes, that can be a sign of venom.
After a venomous bite from a pit viper snake, you'll have:
You may get a lot of swelling. The swelling usually keeps getting worse for a couple of days.
If you got a lot of venom, you may also have:
Hours later, you may have
If you're bitten by a snake and have symptoms, go to the hospital right away. While you're waiting for medical help:
Things you shouldn't do:
If medical care is far away (like when you're out camping) and you don't have any symptoms, clean the bite with soap and water. Watch for signs of infection like you would with any other shallow wound.
To find out if the snakebite is poisonous, your doctor will look at the bite marks. The doctor will ask what the snake looked like. The doctor will also ask about your symptoms.
Is That a Pit Viper?
Pit vipers have certain features that can help distinguish them from nonvenomous snakes:
Nonvenomous snakes tend to have the following:
If people see a snake with no fangs, they should not assume it is nonvenomous because the fangs may be retracted.
The shape of the bite can sometimes help you know if the snake is poisonous:
For a nonpoisonous snakebite, doctors will treat it the same way they treat other puncture wounds. They will:
Clean the wound
Give you medicine to stop infection, if needed
Check if you have had a tetanus shot in the last 5 years, and give you one if you haven't
For a poisonous snakebite, the doctor will: