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What's it like: To be treated for a snake bite

Oklahoma is home to about seven venomous snakes, including rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: March 10, 2013

The general treatment for a snake bite is an infusion of antivenin. It cannot completely reverse the damage from the bite, but it can prevent venom from spreading and causing clotting issues.

The dose of the antivenin will depend on the size of the snake and how much progression or damage you're seeing from the bite itself.

Antivenin can be a costly treatment. It cost a hospital about $800 per vial, and they might charge you between $1,000 and $2,000 per vial.

Does it hurt?

The snake bite itself likely will hurt substantially more than the treatment.

About 10 years ago, the antivenin used in hospitals frequently caused people to break out in hives and suffer from a drop in blood pressure. However, the antivenin used today is less likely to cause these symptoms.

Hopefully, the antivenin will alleviate some of the pain from the bite.

What are the risk factors?

Some people might suffer an allergic reaction to the antivenin. You might also experience some itchiness and a drop in blood pressure. You might develop hives, but it's rare that this occurs. You might also feel as though you have the flu, which is also a rare symptom.

What's the recovery time?

You might also be in the hospital for a few days, depending on the severity. Your recovery time will vary, depending on what type of snake bit you.

A snake bite can cause temporary or permanent nerve damage. For example, if you're bitten on the hand, you might have several weeks of not being able to use your hand.

In children, a full recovery takes between one to three weeks. For adults, it can range from three weeks to several months.

What's the follow-up?

For copperhead bites, you most likely won't have much of a follow-up. With rattlesnake bites, some people will rebound a week after the bite, and they can suffer from problems with blood clotting.

It's important to follow your doctor's instructions and check in when you're asked to.

Source: Dr. William Banner, medical director at Oklahoma Poison Control Center; The Sam Roberts Noble Foundation; The Mayo Clinic; the National Health Service.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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