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Snake and Lizard Bites - Prevention

Snakebites are more likely to occur in warm-weather months when both snakes and people are more active outdoors. Most snakebites occur on the fingers, hands, and arms when someone is working with or trying to catch a snake. The legs and feet are also common bite sites; these bites usually occur when a person (especially a child or a hiker) accidentally disturbs a snake.

Snakes and lizards are popular exotic pets, so the risk for being bitten has increased.

Many snake and lizard bites can be prevented.

  • Find out what local snakes and lizards are found in your area. Learn what they look like, whether they are poisonous, and where you are most likely to see them.
  • If you see a snake or lizard, do not bother it. Keep in mind that the striking range of a snake is about two-thirds of its length.
  • Do not pick up or handle snakes. Even a dead snake can bite and release venom through reflexes for 90 minutes or more after it dies.
  • Watch for snakes around wood or rock piles or caves. Wear protective shoes, boots, and clothing when you are hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting.
  • Do not drink alcohol or use illegal drugs while doing outdoor activities where you might encounter a snake. The effects of the alcohol and drugs may slow your judgment and reflexes.
  • If you have a pet snake or lizard or are thinking about getting one, learn how to handle it safely to avoid being bitten. Find out what first aid supplies you will need if you are bitten, and have them handy.

If you are often in an area where there are poisonous snakes, consider carrying a first aid kit. Carry a cellular phone, if you have one, to call for help if you are bitten.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 06, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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