• Venomous Snake Bites

    Venomous snakes found in the United States include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasins) and coral snakes. Prompt medical care significantly reduces the likelihood of dying from a venomous snake bite. Most deaths from venomous snake bites occur because the person had an allergic reaction to the venom or is in poor health, or because too much time passed before he or she received medical care.

    Signs and Symptoms of Venomous Snake Bites

    Signs and symptoms of a possibly venomous snakebite include a pair of puncture wounds and localized redness, pain and swelling in the area of the bite.

    Emergency Steps


    Check the scene safety, form an initial impression, obtain consent and put on PPE, as appropriate.


    Check for signs and symptoms.

    • Pair of puncture wounds*
    • Localized redness, pain or swelling*
    • Signs & symptoms of shock*

    *Note: Signs and symptoms with a * require immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Call 9-1-1 and get equipment if the person requires immediate emergency medical treatment.


    Give Care.

    General Care: Snakebite

    1. Call 9-1-1 for any snakebite immediately. Do not take time looking for or trying to catch the snake.
    2. Keep injured area still and lower than the heart.
    3. Do not allow the person to walk unless absolutely necessary.
    4. Wash wound with soap and water.
    5. Cover bite with a clean, dry dressing.
    6. Continue checking them as appropriate to determine if additional care is needed.
    7. Keep them from getting cold or overheated.
    8. Give care for shock, if necessary.
    9. Position the person as appropriate.
    10. Reassure them you will help and that EMS has been called (if appropriate).
    11. Watch for changes in condition, including breathing and responsiveness, and give care as appropriate and trained.

    General Care: Coral Snakebite (Trained)

    1. DO NOT use pressure immobilization bandaging after a pit viper bite.
    2. Consider using pressure immobilization bandaging if transport time to emergency medical treatment is prolonged.
    3. Check the skin on the side of the bite farthest away from the heart for feeling, warmth and color.
    4. Place end of bandage against the skin, beginning at the point farthest from the heart.
    5. Use overlapping turns; gently stretch bandage to cover a long body section, such as an arm or calf, while wrapping.
    6. Use overlapping figure-eight turns to support a joint such as the knee or ankle while wrapping to cover a joint.
    7. Check bandage is snug: Ensure a finger can be slid easily underneath it.
    8. Recheck for feeling, warmth and color, especially in fingers and toes while applying bandage.
    9. Monitor for changes like:
      1. Numbness
      2. Tingling
      3. Cool or pale skin
    10. Give care as appropriate and trained.

    Snakebite FAQs

    Which snakes are venomous?

    Venomous snakes in the United States and Canada include the rattlesnake, copperhead, cottonmouth (water moccasin) and coral snake.

    What is pressure immobilization bandaging?

    Pressure immobilization bandaging, with the use of an elastic bandage, may be considered by those trained in proper application following the suspected bite of a coral snake in the United States if transport time to the hospital may be prolonged. It helps slow the spread of venom. It should not be used following the bite of a pit viper, including rattlesnakes, cottonmouths (water moccasins) and copperheads.

    What are signs and symptoms of envenomation (poisoning)?

    Signs and symptoms of moderate envenomation include nausea, vomiting and tingling. Signs and symptoms of severe envenomation include anaphylaxis, shock, coma and paralysis.

    Should I apply ice to a snake bite or use a tourniquet?

    No, do not apply ice or a tourniquet to a venomous snake bite. Also, do not cut, apply suction and/or use electric shock to the wound.

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