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Snake bites can be a real threat to people. Of the hundreds of species of snakes in the USA only a low percentage are actually venomous.

However, given the shock, distress and panic that most of us would feel on unexpectedly encountering a snake, it is highly unlikely that we would be able to easily identify whether the snake we were facing was venomous or not!

If you’d like further advice about how to keep snakes away from your home or garden to minimize the risk of being bitten, call us free at 800-837-5520 to arrange a free pest inspection.


Types of venomous snake bites

The danger from snake bites and the toxicity of venom that a snake injects in to its victim varies from species to species.

The recommended first aid for snake bites will also vary according to species and this underlines the importance of being able to place venomous snakes in to groups according to the properties of their venom.

The required treatment for a snake bite is defined according to whether the venom is cytotoxic, haemotoxic or neurotoxic and the wrong treatment will not only be of little or no help but could even be dangerous.

  • CYTOTOXIC - An agent or process that is toxic to cells and suppresses cell function or causes cell death.
  • HAEMOTOXIC - An agent or process that kills red blood cells and prevents clotting resulting in internal and external bleeding.
  • NEUROTOXIC - An agent or process that is destructive or deadly to nerves or nervous tissue.

The bite:

The venom from adders and vipers is cytotoxic

  • Generally two puncture marks at the site of the bite.
  • Bite causes instant pain, immediate swelling, bruising and blistering.
  • Symptoms include nausea and dizziness.
  • Immobilize the limb but don’t restrict the blood flow.

The venom from mambas and cobras is neurotoxic

  • Generally two puncture wounds at the site of the bite.
  • Bite can feel more like a sting with little or no bruising and swelling.
  • Symptoms include feeling confused, dizziness, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing and breathing.
  • Immobilize the limb and restrict blood flow between the bite and the heart.
  • Administer CPR until Medical help is available.

The venom from boomslangs and vine snakes is haemotoxic

  • Sometimes puncture wounds can be seen at site of the bite.
  • Bite is generally not very painful but within one hour copious bleeding is likely from the bite wound and any other wounds cuts or scratches the victim may have.
  • Symptoms include a severe headache, nausea and vomiting.
  • It’s helpful to restrict the blood and lymphatic flow, but it’s important not to cause bruising which can lead to bleeding under the skin.

If Venom is spat in to a person’s eyes use any liquid available, preferably a neutral one such as water or milk – but anything at all will do, to flush out the eye.

Do's and don'ts of treating snake bite

Symptoms usually manifest soon after a snake bite, so observing the victim is extremely important. If no symptoms have occurred within half an hour of the bite then indications would be that it was not a venomous snake, it failed to inject any venom or the snake was very old and had little or no venom left.


  • Try to identify the snake; color, size, shape of head, attacking method are all useful
  • Loosen the Victim’s clothing and, if necessary, move them in to the shade
  • Keep the victim calm and still; movement will increase blood flow and transport the venom to the heart much faster
  • Immobilize the limb but do NOT restrict blood flow unless you are certain the bite was from a snake that delivers neurotoxic venom
  • Clean and dress the wound being careful not to apply pressure and cause bruising
  • Be prepared to administer CPR if necessary
  • Get the victim to a hospital as soon as possible

Do not

While there can be differences of opinion as to what we should do for snake bites the consensus of opinion as to what not to do is reasonably consistent:

  • Allow the victim to exercise or stress themselves
  • Cut the bite or attempt to suck the venom out
  • Give the victim anything to eat or drink especially alcohol
  • Use potassium permanganate crystals or solution near or on the bite wound
  • Use soapy water round the bite wound
  • Leave pressure bandages on too long
  • Leave the victim alone
  • Apply ice to the wound
  • Soak the affected limb in any solutions

How to avoid being bitten by a snake

The required treatment for a snake bite varies from species to species and being able to identify the species of snake that has bitten someone is an important part of the procedure.

Be aware of the dangers posed by snakes and take steps to avoid them:

  • Snake bites caused by accidentally stepping on to a snake - especially if you are out walking in grassland - are nearly impossible to predict or prevent but by taking a few simple, but sensible precautions you can reduce the risk.
  • When walking around make plenty of noise to advertise your presence which will most likely cause the snake to move away.
  • Wear strong boots or shoes and long pants when walking in grassland.
  • NEVER walk about barefoot - especially at night!
  • Avoid long grass and stick to paths and tracks as much as possible.
  • Use a long stick to ‘probe’ the ground ahead of you; be aware that snakes can ‘play dead’ so do not attempt to touch a snake that appears dead.
  • Walk in single file through long grass or the bush.
  • Climb on to large rocks or logs in the pathway and step off them on to clear ground; these are favorite haunts for snakes.
  • Watch where you put your hands and NEVER put them down a hole.
  • Do not attempt to catch, kill or corner a snake.
  • Never sleep on the ground unless you have a tent with an attached and built in ground sheet.
  • Always use a flashlight to light the ground ahead of you at night.
  • If you see a snake stand absolutely still and then slowly back away; remember that many snakes can strike up to half their length.
  • When entering garages, sheds or storerooms open the door, light the internal area and visually check for snakes remembering that you will, in all likelihood, be blocking their exit and that this is when they can attack in defense.

Ehrlich technicians are skilled, experienced professionals – they are state certified, licensed applicators and are required to participate in regular training programs to maintain their expertise. They understand pests and use that knowledge when developing a control program for your home. They also have respect for you, your home, your family and your time.

At Ehrlich Pest Control, we pride ourselves on fast, responsive service every day. We are always available 24 hours a day for any emergency pest concerns that may develop and all appointments are scheduled at times that are convenient for you - our customer.

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