Snake Bites - Treatment

Were you or someone you know bitten by a snake? Describe the first aid and treatment that were received.

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How are poisonous snake bites treated?

Treatment of poisonous snake bites involves thorough cleansing of the wound and observation of the victim to determine whether symptoms suggestive of evenomation develop over time. In most cases of poisonous snake bites, an antivenin (also called antivenom) is given, preferably by intravenous administration. For rattlesnake, cottonmouth, and copperhead (pit viper) bites, Antivenin (Crotalidae) Polyvalent (ACP) equine (horse)-derived antivenin was the standard treatment in emergency departments for many years. ACP, however, is known to cause a number of potentially severe allergic reactions because of its equine origin. In 2000 the U.S. FDA approved the sheep-derived antivenin CroFab which appears to have a lower incidence of associated allergic reactions, although clinical trials comparing the two have not been performed.

References: Juckett, G and Hancox JG. Venomous Snakebites in the United States: Management Review and Update. American Family Physician 65(7), 2002.

FDA Consumer Magazine. For Goodness Snakes- Treating and Preventing Poisonous Snake Bites. Revised 2002.

Lavonas EJ; Gerardo CJ; O'Malley G; Arnold TC; Bush SP; Banner W Jr; Steffens M; Kerns WP 2nd. Initial experience with Crotalidae polyvalent immune Fab (ovine) antivenom in the treatment of copperhead snakebite. Ann Emerg Med 2004 Feb;43(2):200-6.

Alberts MB; Shalit M; LoGalbo F. Suction for venomous snakebite: a study of "mock venom" extraction in a human model. Ann Emerg Med 2004 Feb;43(2):181-6.

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