Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What are the symptoms of a poisonous snake bite?

Symptoms of snake bites are dependent upon the type and size of the snake, the location of the bite on the body, and the age, size, and health of the victim. Children are more likely to have severe symptoms because they receive a larger concentration of venom due to their smaller body size. Also, not all snake bites involve the discharge of venom into the victim (known as evenomation). At least 25% of poisonous snake bites do not result in evenomation.

Snake venoms are either hemotoxic (causing damage to blood and other tissues) or neurotoxic (causing damage to nerves). The pit vipers, with the exception of some Mojave rattlesnakes, have hemotoxic venom. Coral snakes have neurotoxic venom.

Pit viper bites often show two characteristic fang marks at the site of the bite. Intense pain usually results at the site within five minutes of the bite, and swelling is common. Other symptoms that may result from pit viper hemotoxin include:

  • weakness,
  • rapid pulse,
  • numbness,
  • tingling sensations,
  • bruising,
  • bleeding disorders,
  • vomiting,
  • an unusual metallic taste, and
  • confusion.

Bites from snakes such as coral snakes and their exotic relatives whose venom is neurotoxic may result in minimal pain and no visible marks on the skin. Instead of pain and swelling, these bites often cause local numbness along with a number of other symptoms including:

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