Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Comparison of Snake Bites in Adults and Children


Adults and children are bitten by snakes. The traditional wisdom is that children may be more at risk for a severe reaction because they have a smaller volume, and so may be more affected by the venom, which can have its effects on a smaller person. It is also sometimes stated that children may be bitten multiple times, because they don’t know to retreat out of the striking range of the snake. The American College of Emergency Physicians held a Research Forum in association with its Annual Scientific Meeting in Denver, Colorado in October, 2012. One of the presentations was entitled “Comparison Between Children and Adult Snakebite Victims: Analysis of 64,210 Victims.”

The study was performed by reviewing telephone calls to all U.S. poison centers for all snakebites of humans from 2000 to 2009. The clinical outcome was classified as no effects, minor, moderate, major, or death. AC Morris and colleagues noted that 19,790 victims were under the age of 18 years and 44,240 victims were 18 years of age and older. Children were much less likely to have been bitten by a venomous snake than were adults. Children were more likely to have a “dry bite” or no clinical effects than were adults. There were not significant differences between children and adults with regard to gender, month during which the bites occurred, or geographical location.

These data might perhaps indicate that adults are more prone to handle venomous species or that they are more commonly in venomous snake territory. The investigators hope to use the information to help determine prevention and treatment strategies.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.