Cedars-Sinai Blog

What to Do If You’re Bitten by a Snake

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Rattlesnakes are common in Southern California.

Hikers, campers, and gardeners be warned—it's snake season!

A rainy winter followed by warmer weather brings great conditions for outdoor activities and for snakes coming out of hibernation.

Even though a snakebite can happen any time, most occur between April and October when there is a significant warming trend.



What to do if you’re bitten by a snake

If you are bitten by a snake, call 911 or go to the ER immediately, even if you don’t think the snake is venomous.


"Try to remember the size, color, and shape of the snake."


If the bite is from a venomous snake, you may be given antivenom medication, which can slow down or stop the effects of toxins in the body. Antivenom medication varies for different snakes, says Dr. Torbati, and should be given as soon as possible.

"In order to provide the best treatment, we ask patients for a description of the snake. Try to remember the size, color, and shape of the snake,” advises Dr. Torbati. “A photo taken at a safe distance will also help."


“Even though not all snakebites are toxic, it’s best to receive a proper medical evaluation sooner than later.”


Whether the snake is venomous or not, the area around the wound is likely to be itchy, painful and swollen.

Venomous bites may also lead to nausea, vomiting, numbness, weakness, paralysis, and difficulty breathing.

What to do immediately after a snakebite

Whether the snake is venomous or not, the area around the wound is likely to be itchy, painful and swollen.

Venomous bites may also lead to nausea, vomiting, numbness, weakness, paralysis, and difficulty breathing.

  • Keep still and calm to slow the spread of the venom
  • If swelling occurs, remove any jewelry or watches that could cut into the skin
  • Gently bandage or cover the bite with a clean, dry cloth
  • Asked to be carried, if possible, because any exertion may increase venom absorption
  • Seek medical attention by calling 911 or going to an emergency room
Snakebite don’ts
  • Don’t wait to seek medical attention
  • Don’t apply a tourniquet
  • Don’t slash the wound with a knife
  • Don’t try to suck out the venom
  • Don’t apply ice or immerse the wound in water
  • Don’t consume alcohol or caffeine before treatment

"Even though not all snakebites are toxic, it’s best to receive a proper medical evaluation sooner than later," says Dr. Torbati.



Preventing a snakebite

Of course the best snakebite is one that doesn’t happen—a little bit of caution can go a long way in avoiding them.

Ways to reduce your odds of a snakebite
  • Wear long pants and proper footgear when hiking
  • Be cautious when climbing rocks
  • Stay out of tall grass
  • Keep dogs on their leash
  • Teach children to leave snakes alone
  • Avoid placing hands or feet into a crevasse or hole
  • Be aware before grabbing a stick or branch