Snake Bites Symptoms & Causes

How to protect your child from snake bites

People who frequent wilderness areas, camp, hike or live in snake-inhabited areas should be aware of the potential dangers posed by venomous snakes. These people should:

  • Know how to identify poisonous snakes — and teach your children, if they are old enough, to do the same.
  • Have access to transportation and medical assistance in case of emergency.

What snakes cause poisonous bites?

Only about 5 percent, or roughly 25 species of snakes in the United States are poisonous. The most common poisonous snakebites are caused by the following snakes:

  • pit vipers - rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouth (water moccasin) snakes
  • coral snakes

Rattlesnake bites cause most of the poisonous bites in the US. Coral snakes cause less than 1 percent of poisonous snakebites.

What are the symptoms of pit viper bites?

The following are the most common symptoms of pit viper bites. However, each child may experience symptoms differently.

Local symptoms may include:

  • bloody wound discharge
  • fang marks in the skin
  • swelling at the site of the bite which may progress to an entire extremity within hours
  • severe localized pain, burning and warmth
  • discoloration, such as redness and bruising
  • enlarged lymph nodes in the area

Systematic symptoms, involving the entire body, may include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • excessive sweating
  • fever or chills
  • weakness, dizziness, or fainting
  • difficulty swallowing
  • numbness and tingling, especially in the mouth
  • altered mental state
  • generalized bleeding or hemorrhage
  • seizures
  • shock

What are the local symptoms of coral snake bites?

Local symptoms may include:

  • fang marks
  • minimal pain and swelling

What are the systematic symptoms of coral snake bites?

Systemic symptoms may be delayed eight to 24 hours and may include the following:

  • weakness or lethargy
  • numbness and tingling
  • altered mental state
  • flaccid muscles
  • paralysis
  • breathing problems

Preventing snake bites

Some bites, such as those inflicted when your child accidentally steps on a snake in the woods, are nearly impossible to prevent. However, there are precautions that can reduce your child's chances of being bitten by a snake. These include:

  • Teach your child to leave snakes alone. Many people are bitten because they try to kill a snake or get too close to it.

  • Make sure your child stays out of tall grass unless he/she wears thick leather boots and remains on hiking paths as much as possible.

  • Make sure your child keeps his/her hands and feet out of areas he/she cannot see. He/she should not pick up rocks or firewood unless the child is out of a snake's striking distance.

  • Teach your child to be cautious and alert when climbing rocks.