What is snake and lizard bites?

Snake and Lizard Bites

Caring for a poisonous snake or lizard bite

If you were bitten by a snake or lizard that you know or think is poisonous, call 911 or other emergency services right away. Don't wait for symptoms to develop. Symptoms may progress from mild to severe rapidly.

If you aren't sure what type of snake or lizard bit you, take a picture of it. But don't do this if it will delay treatment or put someone at risk for more bites. Don't waste time or take any risks trying to kill or bring in the snake. Only trap a poisonous snake if the chances are good that it will bite more people if you let it go. It's important to remember that a snake only injects part of its venom with each bite. So it can still hurt you after the first strike. And a dead snake, even one with a severed head, can bite and release venom by reflex action for up to 90 minutes after it dies.

Medicine (antivenom) to counteract the effects of the poison can save a limb or your life. Antivenom is given as soon as a doctor decides it's needed, usually within the first 4 hours after the snakebite. Antivenom may be effective up to 2 weeks or more after a snakebite. Take these steps after a poisonous snake or lizard bite.

  • Start home treatment right away.

    But don't delay getting emergency care while you start home treatment.

    • If you think the snake bite is an emergency, call 911.
    • Stay calm, and try to rest quietly.
    • If you aren't sure what type of snake or lizard bit you, call a Poison Control Center right away to help identify the snake or lizard and find out what to do next.
    • Remove any jewelry. The limbs might swell, making it harder to remove the jewelry after swelling starts.
    • Use a pen to mark the edge of the swelling around the bite every 15 minutes. This will help your doctor estimate how the venom is moving in your body.
  • Avoid doing anything that might cause more problems with the bite.
    • Do not cut the bite open.
    • Do not suck on the bite wound or use any kind of extraction device.
    • Do not use a constriction band, such as a tourniquet or bandage, on a bite.
    • Do not soak your hand or foot in ice water or pack your arm or leg in ice. It can increase damage to the skin and cause a cold-induced injury, such as frostbite.
    • Do not raise the bitten arm or leg above your head. It may increase the flow of venom into the bloodstream.
    • Do not drink alcohol.
    • Do not give any prescription or nonprescription medicines after a poisonous snake or lizard bite unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, may cause increased bleeding.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

Specialized emergency services

Find care near you

Comprehensive care

Find an ER near you