Snakebite injuries: contributing factors and intentionality of exposure

Wilderness Environ Med. 1997 Aug;8(3):152-5. doi: 10.1580/1080-6032(1997)008[0152:sicfai];2.


The objective was to study the intent of exposure to snakes and other factors contributing to snakebite injuries in order to develop prevention strategies. We used a retrospective chart review and a follow-up telephone interview of snakebite victims who were admitted to a tertiary care center between 1985 and 1994. The data collected included demographics, intent of exposure and host and environmental factors. I performed descriptive analysis. Twenty-four males and six females ranging in age from 2 to 93 years sustained bites from a variety of snakes including rattlesnakes, copperheads, and Egyptian cobra, and others. Sixty-seven percent (20/30) of all bites resulted from intentional exposures to snakes: professional snake handlers (7), snake hunts (8), and playing with (aggravating) snakes in the wild (5). Sixty-five percent (13/20) of intentional exposures involved novices in a recreational/home setting, and 35% (7/20) occurred in an occupational setting. Unintentional exposures occurred while victims were walking in wooded areas, fishing by streams, gardening, and washing dishes indoors. Forty percent (12/30) of all victims had consumed alcohol before the snakebite, 92% (11/12) of whom were nonprofessionals with intentional exposures. Only eight victims (seven of whom were professional handlers) were using protective equipment. I concluded that the majority of snakebite injuries resulted from intentional exposures to snakes in which a variety of factors such as the use of alcohol and lack of protective equipment likely played a role.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking
  • Snake Bites / epidemiology*
  • Snake Bites / etiology*
  • Snakes / classification*
  • West Virginia / epidemiology