What is the focus of history in the evaluation of a snakebite?

Updated: Apr 09, 2021
  • Author: Spencer Greene, MD, MS, FACEP, FACMT, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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History usually can be obtained from the patient, although some patients do not see the snake and many patients cannot correctly identify the snake. Patients are encouraged to take a picture of the snake if it is safe to do so and it does not delay transport to the hospital. Identifying the species of snake can be helpful if it expedites treatment, facilitates crotaline antivenom selection where relevant, or enables experts to tailor therapy. Victims and emergency medical service providers should be discouraged from bringing in the snake because even a dead snake can envenomate. [18, 19]

Determine the time of the bite and what signs and symptoms have developed. Inquire about local effects as well as systemic symptoms such as nausea, dyspnea, and lightheadedness. Some snakebite victims describe experiencing a metallic taste.

Ascertain what treatments what have already been attempted and by whom.

Obtain a thorough medical history, including medications and allergies. Ask if the patient has had a previous snakebite and if he or she has had antivenom in the past.

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