Snake Bites

By: Sarah Evins, MD

Out of 38 snake species in South Carolina, only 6 are venomous – the coral snake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, timber (or canebrake) rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, copperhead, and cottonmouth snakes. The copperhead snake is the most common. You may have heard the rhyme “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow, red touch black, venom lack.”  The saying is to help identify coral snakes, but coral snakes cause very few bites. Other features standard to venomous snakes include triangular-shaped heads and vertically elliptical (cat’s eye) pupils. This resource from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources can help you identify the different venomous snakes in our state:


  • Don’t touch! Remember, the best way to prevent a snake bite is to leave it alone! Even dead snakes can bite by reflex.
  • Wear shoes when outdoors.
  • Use light. Turn on outside lights at home before going out in the dark, or use a flashlight to light up where you are walking.
  • Scare them away. When moving through tall grass or weeds, use a long stick to poke at the ground before you.
  • Avoid places where snakes are likely to be, such as climbing on rocks or piles of wood.

What to do if a snake bites your child?

  • Don’t panic! Many snakes that bite are not venomous; even venomous snakes may bite without injecting venom.
  • Get everyone away from the snake, and do not try to capture or kill it. Identifying the snake or getting a picture from a safe distance will be helpful but not required. Safety is the priority!
  • Keep your child calm to help reduce the spread of the venom.
  • Keep the extremity with the bite level with their heart. Placing the extremity with the bite above the heart can increase the spread of the venom and keeping it below the heart can worsen swelling.
  • Remove any tight clothing or jewelry from the area with the bite.
  • Wash gently with soap and water.
  • Call the Poison Control Hotline: 1-800-222-1222. They can help you decide whether to treat the bite at home or go to the hospital.
  • Never use a tourniquet, apply ice, try to suck the venom out, or cut the wound.
  • Avoid Ibuprofen, and give Tylenol instead of pain medication if needed.
  • Watch for signs of an allergic reaction. Hives, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or vomiting could all be signs of an allergic reaction that requires urgent medical intervention. If you start to see these signs, call 911 immediately, as symptoms can progress quickly.

Call Parkside Pediatrics for all your supportive care treatments. But remember these tips in case of a snake bite and enjoy your outdoor activities this summer!



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