KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A snake bite can be scary, especially for a child. Being bitten by a venomous snake can cause severe tissue damage and even death. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reports more than 20 species of snakes live in Tennessee, four are venomous: the copperhead, the cottonmouth, the timber rattlesnake and the pygmy rattlesnake.

If your child is bitten by any snake getting medical attention right away is important. Dr. Ryan Redman, emergency room director at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital shares some first aid for snake bites and what you can expect if your child visits the hospital for treatment.

Signs/symptoms of a snake bite

A snake bite may not be as noticeable as you might think. Fang marks can be too small to see. A venomous snake bite can cause severe burning pain at the site, rapid swelling, discoloration or blood-filled blisters after 6 to 10 hours. In severe cases nausea, vomiting, sweating, trouble breathing and weakness are possible.

First aid

Do not try to capture the snake for identification. Get away from the snake; it can bite again. Keep the child quiet and calm. Limiting activity can help prevent the spread of venom through the bloodstream.

Get the child to a hospital as soon as possible. Antivenom needs to be given within the first few hours of a venomous snake bite. Don’t try to determine on your own if the snake is poisonous. Leave that to the medical professionals. Bites from baby snakes can be more dangerous because they can’t yet control their venom.

Do NOT make an incision and apply suction. It does not help and can make matters worse. Do NOT apply tourniquet or ice. These measures can also make the situation worse.

What will happen at the hospital?

Antivenom should be given within four hours of bite. It’s a biological product used in the treatment of venomous bites or stings. Most children will need to be monitored for at least 24 hours after any kind of snake bite.

If they have been bitten by a poisonous snake, and given antivenom, they may be monitored for longer. In some cases kids can go into shock or even need more hands-on care in an intensive care unit until their bodies begin to perform normally again.


Teach kids to NOT touch a snake, even with an object like a long stick. Move away if you see one as snakes can strike from a good distance. Stay out of long grass or overgrown areas in the yard or woods.

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