You’ve heard that copperhead snakes are poisonous, but just how dangerous are they, really? If there are copperheads living in your area (or even in your yard!), you want to be prepared and know how to protect yourself from them before getting bit. In this article, we’ll talk about what to do if you get bit by a copperhead, as well as what the bite looks like and the symptoms you may experience.
What You'll Learn Today
How Dangerous is a Copperhead?
Copperheads are venomous with an excruciating bite, but this bite is usually not deadly. Though copperheads can make you pretty sick, they are not one of the more potent or dangerous snakes.
That said, you still want to avoid being bit by a copperhead if at all possible.
Though a healthy adult probably won’t die from a copperhead bite, the bite may cause terrible pain, tissue damage, and other symptoms. If not treated immediately, these symptoms may lead to more serious complications.
Copperhead bites are most dangerous if they are not treated promptly with the appropriate medical care. The first thing you should do after receiving a suspected copperhead bite is seek medical attention–the longer you wait, the more problems you may encounter later on.
It is worth noting that copperheads tend to be relatively shy and will try to avoid human interaction if possible–they are not aggressive snakes. They will only bite if they feel threatened or if you step on them.
In these cases, they will likely strike without warning. They can be hard to see because of their camouflage, so you may get closer to a copperhead than you intend to simply because you don’t see it soon enough.
What Type of Venom Does a Copperhead Have?
According to the State of Connecticut, a copperhead’s venom works by breaking down blood cells. When a copperhead strikes its prey, the venom works quickly to destroy the animal’s blood and blood vessels, causing it to die from internal bleeding.
The same basic principle applies when a copperhead bites a human, but usually with less grave results.
A copperhead’s venom is hemolytic; this is the term used to mean that it affects the blood. In a healthy adult human, this venom only affects the area that was bitten.
The venom may cause local bleeding or bruising, as well as swelling, because blood will flood the area as blood vessels break down.
Again, this only happens locally and, in most cases, doesn’t cause permanent damage. That said, a copperhead’s bite can cause temporary systemic symptoms as well, such as vomiting and breathing difficulties.
What Does Copperhead Venom Do?
A copperhead’s venom generally doesn’t cause death, though young children and elderly individuals, as well as those with compromised immune systems, may be more at risk.
As noted above, copperhead venom breaks down blood cells and blood vessels, causing temporary tissue damage in humans. The venom may cause other symptoms as well–symptoms that are not necessarily deadly, but highly unpleasant.
The best thing to do after being bit by a copperhead is to get to the hospital and receive an antivenom treatment to stop the venom’s effects. The sooner you do this, the better.
What Happens if You Get Bit By a Copperhead?
The symptoms of a copperhead bite include:
- Puncture marks: Right after the snake bites, you will notice a set of parallel puncture marks in the skin. These marks are created by the copperhead’s fangs and may be spaced from half an inch to a couple of inches apart, depending on the size of the snake.
- Redness and swelling: The bite area will quickly become red or bruised-looking and swollen as blood floods the area just under the skin.
- Severe pain: Copperhead bites are exceptionally painful. You will notice a sharp, stabbing pain as soon as you are bitten, and this pain will continue until antivenom treatments begin to take effect.
- Nausea and vomiting: Copperhead bites may cause nausea and vomiting in some individuals.
- Breathing difficulty: Some people may experience labored breathing, and in severe cases, they may stop breathing completely.
- Vision problems: Copperhead bites can cause temporary blurred vision and other vision disturbances.
- Sweating and salivation: Copperhead bites may cause excessive sweating and salivation as the body tries to rid itself of the venom.
- Numbness and tingling: Copperhead bites may also cause some numbness and tingling, especially around the face, arms, and legs.
Can You Die From a Copperhead Bite?
Is possible to die from copperhead bite, but death happens much more rarely with copperheads than with other venomous snakes.
Those most at risk of dying from copperhead bites are kids, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals, as well as those who don’t seek immediate treatment.
To give yourself the best chance of a quick and complete recovery, get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Either have someone take you or call 911 and go by ambulance–it’s dangerous to drive yourself because of the symptoms you may begin experiencing.
Never attempt to self-treat a copperhead bite by cutting an X across the puncture wounds and attempting to suck out the poison. Don’t put on a tourniquet, as it’s far too easy to cause worse harm to yourself.
Don’t even put an ice pack on the bite, as this may cause further tissue damage. Simply get yourself to the hospital quickly so you can receive the proper antivenom treatment.
Can a Copperhead Bite Kill a Child?
Yes, if not treated promptly.
Kids are more susceptible to a copperhead’s venom because they are smaller, so the venom can affect a larger area of their bodies and spread more quickly. Kids’ natural defenses also aren’t as strong as those of the average adult.
If a child has been bitten by a snake of any kind, get them to the hospital quickly, even if you don’t know the identity of the snake. Any delay can cause worse symptoms and increase the risk of death.
Check out this news clip for a good visual of what kind of damage copperhead bites can cause as well as what the snakes look like so you can avoid them.
What Does a Copperhead Bite Look Like?
Copperhead bites look much like other venomous snake bites.
Right after the bite, you’ll notice two parallel puncture marks in the skin which may bleed quite a bit. The area will begin to swell and bruise as blood floods the area, and you’ll feel a significant amount of pain.
Again, there is nothing special about the appearance of a copperhead’s bite; it looks much like the bite of any other venomous snake, so you’d be hard-pressed to identify it as a copperhead bite simply from the appearance of the bite.
With any bite that looks like what has been described above, it’s best to seek immediate medical attention.
If you know or suspect you’ve been bitten by a copperhead, don’t attempt to treat the bite yourself–instead, get to a hospital right away. Children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals are especially susceptible to copperhead bites.
While it is unlikely that a copperhead’s bite will kill a healthy adult, it will likely cause some unpleasant symptoms and can lead to more serious complications. This is why prompt medical treatment is so important.