Snake bites – symptoms and associated risk factors

Snake bites

The number of people who have reported that have been bitten by snakes is increasing every year. When you have been bitten by a venomous snake, then this is a rarely deadly (100,000 fatalities are reported every year). In all cases they were treated as medical emergency case [1]. When the snake is provoked or disturbed, then it bites in self – defense. In the most cases when someone is walking in countryside and accidentally steps on a snake, then happens the snake bite. Also there are some cases when harmless snake bites have been reported as serious because they lead to infection or an allergic reaction. Venomous snake bites can cause you many symptoms such as paralysis, nausea, convulsions, swelling and pain. After you have been bitten by a snake you need to stay calm. You should clean the wound immobilize the affected areas. You need to get medical help as soon as possible. You should treat this condition because you can have a good recovery.

Symptoms of snake bites

There are some venomous snakes that bite without injecting the venom. This is known as a dry bite. This will cause you a mild pain because the snake has punctured your skin with its teeth. Also it can cause you anxiety. If there are not other symptoms such as swelling, then this is a condition which is known as a dry bite. You need to visit your doctor as soon as possible or call the emergency department because you may not see the signs that the venom has been injected in your body until it is too late. In the most cases there need to past two hours after you have been bitten by a snake to feel these signs or it takes longer if you have been bitten by a snake bite.

Venomous snake bites (adder and foreign) Foreign and adder snake bites can cause similar symptoms.

Symptoms of foreign snake bites include:

  • Muscle paralysis which can lead to breathing difficulties
  • Vomiting blood or passing blood in urine or stools
  • Bleeding from the mouth, nose and wounds
  • Dizziness, mental confusion, faintness, collapse and shock

Symptoms of an adder bite when venom has been injected, include:

  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Mental confusion, dizziness or fainting
  • Breathing difficulties with wheezing that are similar to asthma
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue and gums
  • Itchy lumps on the skin (nettle rush or hives)
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling sick (nausea) followed by vomiting
  • Swelling, redness and bruising at the location of the bite, spreading up the bitten limb
  • Severe pain at the location of the bite

In the most severe cases a venomous snake bite may cause:

  • Death
  • Massive blood loss – as a result of bleeding from the mouth, nose and wounds, vomiting blood and passing blood in urine or stools [2]
  • Kidney failure with little or no urine being passed [3]
  • Shock and loss of consciousness
  • Paralysis – starting with drooping of the upper eyelids and progressing down the body to produce an inability to swallow, breathe or move [4]
  • Extensive swelling, blistering and eventually tissue death (condition that is known as gangrene) in the area of the bite

If you have been bitten by a foreign or adder snake, then you must call the ambulance as soon as possible because it can develop the symptoms of anaphylaxis.


There are some people who can get anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis that is caused by a snake bite. The anaphylaxis is a condition when the snake bite triggers a severe allergic reaction. This condition can happen immediately after you have been bitten by a snake or there should pass several hours to get this condition. You need to call the ambulance if you have this condition and this is medical emergency condition. If you left untreated, then this can be life threatening condition. [5]

Symptoms of anaphylaxis

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • Swelling in the throat that can cause breathing difficulties
  • Swollen face, lips, tongue and throat
  • Itchy skin with redness and hives

Snake bites

This condition can also cause a drop in the blood pressure which leads to shock and other symptoms such as

  • Blindness
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Faintness, loss of consciousness or collapsing
  • Dizziness or mental confusion


[1] Torpy JM, Schwartz LA, Golub RM. Snakebite. JAMA. 2012;307(15):1657.

[2] Park EJ, Choi S, Kim HH, Jung YS. Novel treatment strategy for patients with venom-induced consumptive coagulopathy
from a pit viper bite. Toxins. 2020;12(295).

[3] Priyamvada PS, Jaswanth C, Zachariah B, et al. Prognosis and long-term outcomes of acute kidney injury due to snake envenomation. Clinical Kidney Journal. 2020;13(4):564-70.

[4] Ranawaka UK, Lalloo DG, de Silva J. Neurotoxicity in snakebite—The limits of our knowledge. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 2013;7(10):e2302.

[5] Sharma SK, Alirol E, Ghimire A, et al. Acute severe anaphylaxis in Nepali patients with neurotoxic snakebite envenoming treated with the VINS polyvalent antivenom. Journal of Tropical Medicine. 2019.


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