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Copperhead Snakebite

Batul Nafisa Baxamusa Apr 14, 2019
The venom of a copperhead snake is comparatively milder than other venomous snake species. However, it is very important to seek immediate treatment if bitten, as it can cause serious damage. Read on to know the symptoms and recovery of this snakebite.
The copperhead snake is a pit viper and a member of the Crotalidae family. It uses two heat-sensing pits present between the eyes and nostrils to locate its prey. This snake is so named for the coloration on the dorsal side of its head. It is chestnut-colored and has a band on its body that is dark or brown in color.
A young copperhead can be identified by the greenish or yellowish tip on its tail. An adult can grow up to 20 to 40 inches in length. The bite of this snake rarely proves to be fatal.


This snake is perfectly camouflaged under heaps of leaves in the wilderness. If you encounter one, don't attempt to pick it up or kill it. A copperhead's bite is usually the result of an over-enthusiastic or panicked human reaction. Given a chance, it usually prefers to slither down its snake hole or hide under a ledge or anywhere away from intruding humans.
However, if escape is not possible, the snake will stand its ground. It will display a strike pose and lash out at the enemy. If the enemy, that is human, is in close range, its fangs may penetrate the skin. This is just a display of threat as the snake prefers to scare the human away rather than biting him/her. 
However, unfortunately, if one does get bitten, it is important to watch out for the symptoms. These symptoms help medical caregivers get a correct identification of the snake and provide proper treatment. The symptoms include the following.
  • Swelling
  • Local tissue injury
  • Abnormally low blood pressure
  • Absence of blood clotting
  • Generalized weakness of limbs


Although a copperhead's venom is mild when compared to other snakes, if immediate treatment is not sought, it will lead to serious complications. The effects lead to severe pain, extensive scarring, and loss of use of the injured limb. In case of healthy adults, the bite is rarely fatal.
Extensive local tissue damage and secondary wound infections are also some of the effects. In case of animals, small pets are more sensitive to the venom. Small dogs, cats, etc. can die due to the bite.


If you come across a copperhead snakebite victim, you should first and foremost calm the victim down. You should call the emergency services immediately. The emergency personnel will remove any constricted clothing, watch, bracelet, etc. around the bite site or it may cause swelling. Immobilize the limb completely and keep it at a lower level than the heart.
If you cannot reach the emergency services within 30 minutes, you need to tie a bandage or clot 2 to 4 inches above the bite site. This will help in stopping the spread of venom. However, the bandage should not be too tight. It should be loose enough to slide a finger under it. Then you can use a suction device, if available, to draw out the venom.
You can find suction devices in first aid kits for snakebites. Do not apply a tourniquet and do not ice the wound under any circumstances. Also, never make any kind of incision on or around the wound. Never give any medications, pain killers, etc. to the victim. Totally avoid giving anything orally.
The patient will be given an antivenom or antivenin injection by a medical caregiver and treated with minor medical treatment. Recovery takes a few weeks and is rarely fatal. You should stay away from snakes and let them be.
Most copperheads as well other snake species prefer not to bite. If you ever come across one, do not panic or try to kill it. Wilderness is its home, you are the one trespassing. You should make your homes and gardens snake-proof to avoid any kind of mishaps.
If you spot one in your backyard, call animal control to catch and release it in the wild. This would be a lot better than trying to kill the creature and getting bitten instead. Most snakebite cases involve people trying to kill the animal. You should also teach your children to stay away from different types of snakes in the wild.