adder bites or bite

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The adder or viper (Vipera berus) is common throughout mainland Britain and some of the islands off the west coast of Scotland

  • bites occur from February to October, peaking in June to August (1)
  • about 50% of patients are bitten on the hand whilst picking up the adder
  • be very reassuring as most victims are very frightened. Venom is often not injected and, when it is, reactions are often local and mild
  • give paracetamol to control pain
  • refer urgently to casualty department
  • do not suck the wound
  • immobilise the patient during urgent transfer to casualty department
  • splint the arm or leg to reduce dispersal while waiting for hospital antivenom treatment if needed
  • tourniquets, compression bandages and ligatures should not be used (1)
  • anaphylaxis occurs in a small number of patients
  • bites of foreign snakes require specialist advice and may need antiserum

Reference:

  1. Warrell DA. Treatment of bites by adders and exotic venomous snakes. BMJ 2005; 331:1244-47

Last reviewed 07/2021

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