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Snake bites

Most snake bites in the UK are not serious. But it's important to get all snake bites checked as soon as possible.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E immediately if:

  • you think you, or someone else, has been bitten by a snake

Find your nearest A&E

Information:

If you're not in the UK when you are bitten by a snake, contact the emergency medical services in the country you're in.

Get foreign travel advice on GOV.UK

What to do while you're waiting for help

Do

  • stay calm, most snake bites in the UK are not serious and can be treated

  • keep the part of your body that was bitten as still as you can

  • lie in the recovery position if you can

  • take paracetamol for any pain

  • try to remember the colour and pattern of the snake to tell the doctor

  • take off any jewellery and loosen clothes near the bite, in case it swells

Don’t

  • do not go near the snake, or try to catch or kill it

  • do not try to suck or cut the poison (venom) out of the bite

  • do not tie anything tightly round the part of the body where the bite is

  • do not take aspirin or ibuprofen, as they can make bleeding worse

What happens at the hospital

You will usually need to stay in hospital for at least 24 hours if you have been bitten by a snake.

The bite will be cleaned and bandaged. You may be given an injection to help protect you from tetanus.

If you were bitten by a poisonous (venomous) snake you will be treated with a medicine to fight the venom. This is given through a thin tube into a vein, called a drip.

Types of UK snake

Only 3 types of snake are found in the wild in the UK.

The adder is the only venomous snake, but you should get all snake bites checked as soon as possible.

Telling the doctors the colour and pattern of the snake that bit you could help them treat it.

Grey adder with black zig-zag markings, curled up in the grass
Adders are grey or reddish-brown, with a dark zig-zag shaped stripe down their back.
Credit:

GUSTOIMAGES/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/380235/view

Green grass snake, moving over rocks
Grass snakes are usually green, with dark spots down their sides and yellow and black bands around their neck.
Credit:

JOHN DEVRIES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/380116/view

Grey smooth snake with brown pattern, curled up on ground
Smooth snakes are usually grey or brown with a dark pattern. The pattern down their backs are lighter and less zig-zag shaped than on adders.
Credit:

Credit COLIN VARNDELL / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/1063724/view

Page last reviewed: 23 December 2019
Next review due: 23 December 2022