What to do if bitten by a snake: treatments, remedies, cost


Copperhead snakes, the commonest venomous snake in North Carolina, should not aggressive snakes, however they are often territorial and will chunk in the event that they really feel threatened.

The chunk from the brownish-gray snake with the Hershey’s Kiss-shaped sample isn’t lethal, however might be painful and costly to deal with.

What does correct remedy for a copperhead (or different) snakebite appear to be?

The Information & Observer spoke with Dr. Charles Gerardo (an emergency medical specialist with Duke Well being) and Dr. Eugenia Quackenbush (an emergency physician with UNC Medical Middle) for solutions.

Responses have been edited for size and readability.

How are copperhead bites handled? Is antivenom wanted?

Dr. Quackenbush:

“Copperhead bites may cause severe native response, which may end up in ache and debility within the affected limb. There’s a vary of severity, from dry chunk, delicate, average to extreme. Antivenom remedy can pace restoration and scale back want for opiate ache medicines.

“The choice on whether or not to make use of antivenom is complicated and depends upon the severity of the chunk, which is assessed by preliminary presentation, systemic signs and development of swelling over time. Therapy often consists of an preliminary dose of 4 to 6 vials, after which further vials could also be wanted if the swelling spreads or systemic indicators worsen. Your physician might mark the sting of the swelling with a pores and skin marker and re-assess periodically to watch for development.

“Antivenom will not be all the time required to deal with a copperhead chunk, however you will need to be evaluated by a doctor with experience in treating venomous snakebites to be able to make that dedication.”

Dr. Gerardo:

“Copperhead snakebite sufferers must be handled with the same method to different venomous snakebites. All venomous snakebites ought to all be evaluated. Sufferers must be supplied antivenom when indicated. … Presently for all US pit vipers, together with copperhead snakebites, indications for antivenom embrace symptomatic delicate, average and extreme bites. It’s indicated for even delicate bites because the potential advantages outweigh the minimal threat of antivenom remedy.

“Though most delicate copperhead bites will finally get better, even with out remedy, we additionally know that almost all sufferers with delicate bites on presentation will progress to average or extreme bites, and that early remedy is related to higher affected person outcomes.

“The one cause to not deal with most sufferers can be, if after an in depth dialogue with the affected person (or member of the family), they don’t need to proceed on account of considerations concerning price to them. That being stated, regardless of the massive numbers on the invoice, the precise price to the sufferers usually is within the modest vary of numbers.”

A copperhead snake appears up on the Nature Museum in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010. AP Photograph/Chuck Burton

How a lot does snake antivenom price?

At UNC Well being: For a typical preliminary dose of 4 to 6 vials, the whole cost for the antivenom can vary from $76,000 to $115,000, per UNC Well being’s pharmacy group.

Most insurance coverage cowl anti-venom remedy, and uninsured sufferers each obtain a reduction and will apply for monetary support.

At Duke Well being: The N&O reported in 2020 that 12 vials of antivenom — double the everyday preliminary dose, per UNC Well being — price $200,000. When requested for this report, Duke Well being declined to offer prices as of 2022 for antivenom remedy.

Nevertheless, with the introduction of a second possibility for antivenom, the value charged to hospitals has “gone down considerably, and this ends in considerably decrease payments to sufferers and insurers,” Duke Well being officers stated.

Is antivenom all the time required to deal with snakebites?

Dr. Gerardo:

“No. Antivenom will not be indicated for dry bites.

“Dry bites are snakebites from a venomous snake that by no means develop signs as a result of no venom is injected into the affected person. Nevertheless, sufferers with dry bites must be noticed for eight years per present suggestions, as some snakebites initially look like dry bites, however later progress to symptomatic bites and require remedy.

“Another excuse to not deal with is that if there’s a medical contraindication to remedy. Lastly, we’d not deal with if the affected person doesn’t need remedy in hopes that they might absolutely get better with out it, regardless of a extra extended course of restoration.”

Do sufferers should be hospitalized after a copperhead snakebite?

Dr. Gerardo:

“The standard course from chunk to discharge is about 36 hours, with the common copperhead snakebite affected person having signs peak at 24 hours.”

Do you all the time want medical consideration for snakebites?

Dr. Gerardo:

“All symptomatic venomous snakebites ought to search analysis, as the bulk will meet indications to profit from remedy. … For venomous non-copperhead snakebites in NC, these sufferers must also search care, as they’re worse on common.

“Moreover, snake species identification is notoriously inaccurate. Juvenile cottonmouth snakes are sometimes misidentified as copperheads.”

Copperheads are brownish-gray in colour with an hourglass-shaped sample, that appears just like a Hershey’s Kiss, on their backs. Josh Bell jbell@thesunnews.com

Can you employ house treatments or therapies for snakebites?

Dr. Gerardo:

“No. Most house treatments should not useful, and plenty of are dangerous, together with tourniquets, venous tourniquets, chopping, suction devises, and even ice.

“For non-venomous snakebite, cleansing the wound, updating tetanus vaccination as wanted and customary wound care is often sufficient.”

What else ought to we learn about treating copperhead bites?

Dr. Gerardo:

“Instantly search care at an emergency division with expertise in managing snakebites.

“Happily, there at the moment are two competing antivenoms out there — CroFab and Anavip — and the price to most amenities has dropped by greater than 50%. Moreover, greater than three out of 4 sufferers with snakebite in NC have some kind of well being protection. For these that don’t, our facility’s specialists will work with the affected person to handle price to the affected person. Normally, the precise price to most sufferers is modest, which permits them to concentrate on receiving a useful and secure remedy to maximise their restoration.”

Hand bitten.jpg
At Hilton Head Island Hospital, the black line on Carolyn Bivens Cote’s hand was used to measure swelling over time from the copperhead snakebite on her left index finger. Carolyn Bivens Cote

Signs and indicators of a snakebite

When you assume you’ve been bitten by a snake, however you’re not fairly certain — possibly since you didn’t see the snake, or for an additional cause — there are a number of indicators and signs that would point out a chunk, based on the CDC:

  • Puncture marks on the wound
  • Redness, swelling, bruising, bleeding or blistering across the chunk
  • Extreme ache and tenderness on the web site of the chunk
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Labored respiration (in excessive circumstances, respiration might cease altogether)
  • Speedy coronary heart charge, weak pulse, low blood strain
  • Disturbed imaginative and prescient
  • Metallic, mint, or rubber style within the mouth
  • Elevated salivation and sweating
  • Numbness or tingling round face and/or limbs
  • Muscle twitching

If you’re experiencing these signs after a potential snake chunk, it’s essential to behave as quickly as potential and search medical consideration.

What to do if you happen to’ve been bitten by a snake

UNC Health provides the following steps to observe after a potential snake chunk:

Keep calm and transfer away from the snake so it might probably’t chunk you once more.

Search medical consideration at an emergency division immediately. If the chunk is extreme sufficient, you could want antivenom remedy, and the faster the it may be began, the earlier irreversible injury from the chunk might be stopped, the CDC says. Notice: It is strongly recommended to have another person drive you to the hospital, whether or not that’s somebody driving you in a automobile or being picked up by an ambulance. Snakebites may cause you to turn into dizzy or move out, which makes driving your self unsafe.

Sit nonetheless and keep calm till you’ll be able to get assist. “Venom appears to journey extra with elevated coronary heart charge, which might result in extra issues,” UNC Well being says.

Take away any tight jewellery or clothes from the chunk space. The chunk will seemingly swell, making it troublesome to take away these objects later.

Attempt to bear in mind the snake’s coloring and sample in an effort to inform your physician.

UNC Well being and the CDC say you need to not:

  • Apply a tourniquet to the chunk space or wherever else.
  • Apply ice to the chunk or immerse the wound in water.
  • Slash the wound with a knife or minimize it in any means.
  • Suck out the venom.
  • Drink alcohol.
  • Take any painkillers, together with aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Attempt to seize the snake that bit you. By no means deal with a venomous snake, even when it has been killed.

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Kimberly Cataudella (she/her) is a service journalism reporter for The Information & Observer.

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