Copperhead bite

Nurses General Nursing


We live in a very snakey area. Have killed 100 plus Copperheads in our yard in 5 years and every now and then a Rattlesnake. We have all been lucky not to have been bit, but we are careful and lucky. Some neighbors have a vacation home and were recently here. Thy went outside late one night last week and the wife was Copperhead bit.

They called me right away. There is a plant I use when our dogs get bit (at least 6 times a year) and I also used it with good results when DH had a brown recluse bite. I started a poultice of that (couldn't hurt I figured) while I did a quick assessment and called doctor.

She had 2 fang marks that were bleeding on her ankle. She went on to the ER and they did some blood work and monitored swelling (don't do routine antivenin for Copperheads anymore). She was sent home 4 hours later. It swelled a great deal and turned black. She returned home several days later.

Here's my question. I work in home health and see lots of things. Recently had pt on wd vac for old brown recluse bite that basically rotted her foot off. I know the Copperhead venom acts the same way by causing tissue necrosis after the fact. I just don't know the timeline of when to start looking for this.

She thinks that she is now going to be just fine (10 days past bite) although it is still very sore, swells when on it, fang marks still visible and part of foot is black but no open areas. There's not much out there as far as down the road is concerned, it's mostly what to do right away. Does anyone have any experience with Copperhead bites? If tissue necrosis is going to occur, does it take a week, a month....any help is appreciated.


gwenith, BSN, RN

3,755 Posts

Specializes in ICU.

Darn!!! I was hoping this thread was going to be about Australian Copperhead snakebites!!!! - TOTALLY different.

Okay I can answer from a general knowledge of snake.spider bite but have never dealt with American snakes.

With any bite there are two problems the venom and the bacteria.

Venom is basically a way of "predigesting" prey and it is this that causes the tissue necrosis. This usually ( and remember I am talking in general here) only lasts 7-10 days but this could be different for your snakes.

The second condition - that of bacteria is more complex and it is the bacteria that can cause repeated and chronic breakdowns and tissue breakdown.

Follow the usual advice - If you are worried at all go to a doctor and PS here snakebite is an emergency ummm "as little as 20 minutes before cardiac arrest"

prmenrs, RN

4,565 Posts

Specializes in NICU, Infection Control.

I have copied this thread to the General Nursing forum to give it a little more attention. It's an interesting problem, and folks may not go to the Wound Forum.

I hope you don't mind.

renerian, BSN, RN

5,693 Posts

Specializes in MS Home Health.

DANG......................I have no experience in this area but will read these posts...........GOD I could not stand living by all those snakes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




265 Posts

Not to make light of this situation in any way whatsoever - but - thinking I would have moved long before that total reached 100 plus!

gwenith, BSN, RN

3,755 Posts

Specializes in ICU.

Okay speaking from the country with the world's deadliest snakes - our snakes are protected. They are a valuable part of the ecosystem and sould not be killed.

Usually they will only bite when provoked. They have no interest in you - you are too big for a meal so given a choice they will not bite. If you are getting so many snakes it suggests your local ecological balance is seriiosly out of whack.


104 Articles; 5,349 Posts

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds.
Not to make light of this situation in any way whatsoever - but - thinking I would have moved long before that total reached 100 plus!

:rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl: :roll :roll :roll


1 Article; 2,394 Posts

Specializes in Everything except surgery.

I just finished an assignment in an area, where avoiding rattlesnakes was almost an everyday occurence. People just looked at it as the price they paid to live there. Even had a dog bought into the ER with a rattlesnake bite.

Had my neighbor to get rid of three while I was there, one I saw myself while going out to my car, on my way to work. Another was in the hospital itself:eek:!!!

Sorry too many snakes for this lady:chuckle


415 Posts

Where is this place where all the snakes are, so I'll know to avoid that area! Traveler, I hope you get the info you're looking for, and I hope your neighbor will be well. God bless.


171 Posts

Yikes. We have copperheads in our backyard every once in a while. Someone said they were going to report us if we killed anymore (apparently it's against the law because they are endangered - SO WHY ARE THERE SO MANY???). Needless to say, they didn't live near a creek like we do, it's like a moat around our house.

Ummm, these snakes, in my expierence are aggressive. Most don't bother you, but these suckers come right out to get you from feet away. They are like the snakes on Q-bert!

Good luck.


renerian, BSN, RN

5,693 Posts

Specializes in MS Home Health.

Alot of snakes in Ohio are protected as well. I have only found three this year. We did have a spider the size of a dinner plate, with its legs outstretched in our outside phone connection equipment. The phone man came to put in another line and refused to work in the box LOL. He took me out there to show me as I thought he was stretching the story. Wow he was not! It was huge! They had to get another man to do it. LOL. I was not touching it either!



219 Posts

ick, ick, ick.....Where the heck do you live????I ain't visiting there...

I've only seen one snake in my back yard in the past ten years and that was a water moccasin. You can bet you've never seen someone run so fast in the opposite direction.

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