Copperhead Snakebite Treatment

A bite from a copperhead snake is known to cause excruciating pain. The good part, however, is that these bites are not fatal in most cases. Here's how you go about treating a copperhead snakebite.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2018
Copperhead snakes are listed among the secondary venomous category, which indicates that their bite almost never results in death. Nevertheless, it is important to seek medical attention at the earliest as a cautionary measure.
Copperhead snakes are found across America, with higher numbers in the southeast. Instances of copperhead snakebites are common throughout the country, as they are notoriously comfortable anywhere including flower beds, shrubs, vehicles, and even inside homes. As in the case of all snakebites, it is necessary to know the snake that has caused it, so that the doctor knows the course of treatment to take.
Appearance-wise, copperheads have that distinct woody color that allows them to effortlessly blend into the background. The length of their body is crisscrossed with dark bands. A noteworthy point about copperheads is that the younger the snake is, the more vicious its bite. This is because older snakes tend to exercise control over the venom they inject into a bite. Therefore, noting the length of the snake is also important as it helps determine its age, and thus, the possible intensity of the bite.
Symptoms of Copperhead Snakebite
Listed below are a few symptoms of a copperhead snakebite that are easy to detect -
  • Pain in the affected area
  • Inflammation
  • Bleeding
  • Low pulse rate
  • Change in skin color around the affected area
Inform the emergency services at the earliest if you notice these symptoms.
First Aid: What Not To Do
The approach to treating snakebites has changed over the years. The first aid techniques that were applied previously have been rendered obsolete, thanks to the knowledge and information we now possess. So here's a list of things to avoid while providing first aid to a victim of copperhead snakebite -
  • Do not apply an ice pack on the affected area.
  •  It is extremely unsafe to remove the venom from the wound through oral suction.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet above the wound, as it may entirely arrest blood supply to the area.
  • Do not make any incisions around the snakebite in order to drain the venom.
First Aid: What To Do
The foremost thing to do is summon medical assistance, as it is not possible to self-treat a snakebite. Do not provide the affected person with any painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication without consulting a doctor.
  • Ask the affected person to remain calm, as hyperactive behavior will increase the blood flow in the body, allowing the venom to spread faster.
  • Remove any tight clothing that may be binding the affected area.
  • Wash the area with clean water and disinfectant soap.
  • Try to keep the affected area as steady as possible and keep it at a lower level than the heart.
  • Ensure that you summon the emergency services at the earliest.
The affected person will be administered the appropriate anti-venom drug, and will be advised a period of rest. Recovery usually takes around a week to ten days. Administering anti-venom drugs does not help reduce the neurotoxic effects like fascicular contraction of muscles due to muscular atrophy or weakness. To monitor this, a patient must be under close medical observation to be given artificial ventilation if the need arises.
*If your pet has been bitten by a copperhead, rush him/her to the veterinarian. Smaller dogs, in particular, do not survive a copperhead snakebite. Attempts to administer first aid on a pet at home is not advisable.
Tips to Prevent Snakebites
It is simply unfortunate that snakes are burdened with the impression of being vicious and vengeful creatures. On the contrary, they happen to be the most shy and reticent animals in nature, who like to be left alone. Humans, being humans, find it very hard to respect anybody's private space, and find themselves at the receiving end of a snake's polite rebuttal. Here's what can be done to avoid snakebites -
  • The best policy is to leave them alone. Snakes dislike being prodded or provoked, just like us.
  • Even genuine curiosity may be viewed as a possible threat, which leads them to attack.
  • Teach your children to respect all animals and give them their space.
  • If you are in a territory that is known for its snake population, do a study on the risks and update yourself on the safety measures.
  • If you spot a snake in your vicinity, do not panic or try to kill it. Get away from the animal and contact an animal rescue center.
  • Take the necessary precautionary measures whenever you go in the wilderness for any sporting activity. Copperhead snakes, in particular, are adept at blending into the background, which makes them hard to spot.
It's always better, and easier to avoid snakebites, rather than have them treated. Ensure your safety by keeping a distance if you ever happen to spot one.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.