Poisonous snake or lizard bite
A bite from a
poisonous (venomous) snake or lizard requires emergency care. If you have been
bitten by a snake or lizard that you know or think might be poisonous,
call911or other emergency services immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to
If you are not sure what type of snake or lizard bit you,
call the Poison Control Center immediately to help
identify the snake or lizard and find out what to do next. Medicine to
counteract the effects of the poison (antivenom) can save a limb or your
It is important to stay calm.
Poisonous snakes or lizards found in North America include:
Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii are the only states that don't
have at least one poisonous snake species in the wild.
Symptoms of a pit viper snakebite often appear from minutes to hours after a bite. Severe
burning pain at the site usually begins within minutes, and then swelling
starts spreading out from the bite.
Things that affect the
severity of a poisonous snake or lizard bite include the:
- Type and size of the snake or
- Amount of venom injected (if any).
- Potency of
the venom injected.
- Location and depth of the
- Number of bites and where they occurred on the
- Age, size, and
health of the person who was bitten.
If you do not develop symptoms within 8 to 12 hours, it
is possible that no venom was injected; this is called a dry bite. At least
25%, and perhaps up to 50%, of bites are dry. If poison is released in the bite,
about 35% of the bites have mild injections of poison (envenomations), 25% are
moderate, and 10% to 15% are severe.
It is important to remember
that a snake only injects part of its venom with each bite, so it is still
dangerous after the first strike. A bite from a young snake can be serious. And
a dead snake, even one with a severed head, can still bite and release venom by
reflex action for up to 90 minutes after it dies. Even if you do not develop
symptoms within 8 hours, continue to watch for symptoms for 2 weeks or more.
Nonpoisonous snake or lizard bite
Most snakes and
lizards in North America are not poisonous. Bites may be frightening, but most
do not cause serious health problems. A bite from a small nonpoisonous snake
might leave teeth marks, a minor scrape, or a puncture wound without other
symptoms. Home treatment often relieves symptoms and helps prevent
Although most nonpoisonous snakebites can be treated at
home, a bite from a large nonpoisonous snake (such as a boa constrictor,
python, or anaconda) can be more serious. In North America, these snakes are
often found in zoos, but they may also be kept as exotic pets. The force of the
bite can injure the skin, muscles, joints, or bones. Other problems can occur
with a nonpoisonous snake or lizard bite even if the reptile is small. A snake
or lizard's tooth may break off in a wound or a
skin infection may develop at the site of the
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.