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Snake bites

There are hundreds of snake species around the world but only a low percentage of these are venomous. However, given the shock, distress and panic that most of us would feel when encountering a snake, it is highly unlikely to identify whether the snake is venomous or not! Here are some important tips you can share with your family to protect them from nasty snakes bites:

  • Be aware of the dangers posed by snakes and take steps to avoid them.
  • As far as you are able, ‘proof’ your home and garden against snakes.
  • Know the symptoms of a snake bite and the appropriate treatment.

Types of venomous snake bites

The danger from snake bites and the toxicity of venom varies from species to species. The recommended first aid for snake bites will also vary according to species.

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


    • An agent or process that is toxic to cells and suppresses cell function or causes cell death. 
    • Species: Adders and Vipers.
    • Generally two puncture marks at the site of the bite. 
    • Bite causes instant pain, immediate swelling, bruising and blistering
    • Symptoms include nausea and dizziness. 
    • Action you can take: Immobilise the limb but don’t restrict the blood flow.


    • An agent or process that kills red blood cells and prevents clotting resulting in internal and external bleeding. 
    • Species: Boomslangs and Vine 
    • 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. 
    • Action you can take: It is helpful to restrict the blood and lymphatic flow, but it’s is important not to cause bruising which can lead to bleeding under the skin.


    • An agent or process that is destructive or deadly to nerves or nervous tissue. 
    • Species: Mambas and Cobras 
    • 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. 
    • Action you can take: Immobilise the limb and restrict blood flow between the bite and the heart. 
    • Action you can take: Administer CPR until medical help is available.

If venom is spat into 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 whether the snake bite is venomous by observing at the snake’s appearance (such as the shape of snake head, colour and size) and its attacking method.
  • Loosen the victim’s clothing and 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.
  • Immobilise the limb but do NOT restrict blood flow unless you are certain the bite is 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, DO NOT:

  • 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.

The contents of this page are for information only. Rentokil Initial China Pest Control do not treat reptile injuries.