What is the importance of identifying the type of snake involved in the bite?

Updated: Apr 09, 2021
  • Author: Spencer Greene, MD, MS, FACEP, FACMT, FAAEM; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

Laboratory tests should be obtained, and the affected extremity should be monitored for progression of swelling and tenderness. Evaluation of neuromuscular strength is recommended for envenomations from suspected neurotoxic snakes.

Physicians who are inexperienced with snakebites sometimes delay treatment until the exact species has been identified. This is unnecessary. Crotalid envenomation is generally a clinical diagnosis, and any pit viper can cause a combination of local damage, hematologic laboratory abnormalities, and systemic toxicity. It has also been demonstrated that many physicians cannot adequately distinguish one crotalid species from another. [54] It is easy to distinguish a crotalid envenomation from a coral snake envenomation, which is characterized by varying degrees of motor and sensory abnormalities but not by local tissue injury.


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