Symptoms and First Aid


Signs or symptoms associated with a snake bite may vary depending on the type of snake, but may include:

  • Puncture marks at the wound
  • Redness, swelling, bruising, bleeding, or blistering around the bite
  • Severe pain and tenderness at the site of the bite
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Labored breathing (in extreme cases, breathing may stop altogether)
  • Rapid heart rate, weak pulse, low blood pressure
  • Disturbed vision
  • Metallic, mint or rubber taste in the mouth
  • Increased salivation and sweating
  • Numbness or tingling around your face and/or limbs
  • Muscle twitching

Signs of Snake Bite

Snake bitten arm

Snake bitten finger

Snake bitten hand

Snake bitten leg

Photos courtesy of Sean P. Bush.

First Aid

  • Workers should take the following steps if they are bitten by a snake:
    • Seek medical attention as soon as possible (dial 911 or call local Emergency Medical Services EMS.)
      • Antivenom is the treatment for serious snake envenomation. The sooner antivenom can be started the sooner irreversible damage from venom can be stopped.
      • Driving oneself to the hospital is not advised because people with snakebites can become dizzy or pass out.
    • Take a photograph of the snake from a safe distance if possible. Identification of the snake can help with treatment of the snakebite.
    • Keep calm.
    • Inform your supervisor.
    • Apply first aid while waiting for EMS personnel to get you to the hospital .
      • Lay or sit down with the bite in a neutral position of comfort.
      • Remove rings and watches in anticipation of swelling.
      • Wash the bite with soap and water.
      • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
      • Mark the leading edge of tenderness/swelling on the skin and write the time alongside it.

    Do NOT do any of the following:

    • Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it. NEVER handle a venomous snake, not even a dead one or its decapitated head.
    • Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten, seek immediate medical attention.
    • Do not apply a tourniquet.
    • Do not slash the wound with a knife or cut it in any way.
    • Do not try to suck out the venom.
    • Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
    • Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.
    • Do not take pain relievers (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.).
    • Do not apply electric shock or folk therapies.
Page last reviewed: May 31, 2018