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A to Z: Snake/Lizard Bites, Venomous

A bite from a venomous (poisonous) snake or lizard is not only quite painful, but also can be life threatening. At highest risk for serious complications or death are kids because of their small body size.

More to Know

While most snakes and lizards in North America are not poisonous, a few species can seriously injure or kill someone with their venom if the bite isn't treated quickly. They include the rattlesnake, copperhead, cottonmouth, coral snake, Gila monster, and Mexican bearded lizard.

Symptoms of a snake or lizard bite will vary depending on the species, but can include pain, swelling, blurred vision, convulsions, diarrhea, numbness, rapid pulse, tissue death, low blood pressure, shock, difficulty breathing, paralysis, and death.

Bites are rare but can be life threatening, and must be treated in the emergency room. If it's possible to do so without danger, try to identify the snake or lizard so that the correct antivenom (a medicine that counteracts the effect of venom) can be given. Even if the snake or lizard appeared non-venomous, seek emergency treatment as many non-venomous species have venomous lookalikes.

Keep in Mind

While any snake or lizard will bite when feeling threatened, surprised, or cornered, most do their best to avoid people. Further, most snakes and lizards in North America aren't poisonous so the chance of being injured by one is incredibly small.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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