Pit vipers, such as the
cottonmouth (also called water moccasin), are
poisonous (venomous) snakes. They leave one, two, or three puncture marks on
the skin, but you won't always see any marks.
Symptoms of a pit
viper snakebite usually appear within a few minutes to a few hours after a bite
and may include:
Other symptoms may be caused by the bite itself or from fear
or worry after being bitten. You may:
The severity of symptoms will depend on the type of snake
that bit you, how much venom was injected with the bite (envenomation), and
health risks. Even if you do not have symptoms within
8 hours of a bite, continue to watch for symptoms for up to 2 weeks.
If you do not have symptoms within 8 to 12 hours, the snake might not
have injected any venom; this is called a dry bite. At least 25%, perhaps up to
50%, of bites are dry.
If venom is injected, about 35% are mild envenomations, 25%
are moderate envenomations, and 10% to 15% are severe.
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. A dead snake, even one
with a severed head, can bite and release venom through reflexes for up to 90
minutes after it dies.
June 6, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Sean P. Bush, MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine, Envenomation Specialist
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