Medically important venomous animals: biology, prevention, first aid, and clinical management

Clin Infect Dis. 2006 Nov 15;43(10):1309-17. doi: 10.1086/508279. Epub 2006 Oct 4.


Venomous animals are a significant health problem for rural populations in many parts of the world. Given the current level of the international mobility of individuals and the inquisitiveness of travelers, clinicians and travel clinics need to be able to give advice on the prevention, first aid, and clinical management of envenoming. Health professionals often feel overwhelmed by the taxonomy of venomous animals; however, venomous animals can be grouped, using a simple set of criteria, into cnidarians, venomous fish, sea snakes, scorpions, spiders, hymenoterans, and venomous terrestrial snakes. Geographic distribution, habitats, and circumstances of accidents further reduce the range of culprits that need to be considered in any single event. Clinical management of envenomed patients relies on supportive therapy and, if available, specific antivenoms. Supplies of life-saving antivenoms are scarce, and this scarcity particularly affects rural populations in resource-poor settings. Travel clinics and hospitals in highly industrialized areas predominantly see patients with injuries caused by accidents involving marine animals: in particular, stings by venomous fish and skin damage caused by jellyfish. However, globally, terrestrial venomous snakes are the most important group of venomous animals.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antivenins / therapeutic use
  • Bites and Stings / therapy*
  • First Aid*
  • Fishes, Poisonous
  • Humans
  • Insecta
  • Scorpions
  • Snake Bites / therapy*
  • Snakes
  • Spiders


  • Antivenins