The legitimacy of rattlesnake bites in central Arizona

Ann Emerg Med. 1989 Jun;18(6):658-63. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(89)80523-2.


Previous authors have classified poisonous snake bites as being legitimate or illegitimate, depending on whether the victim was taking unnecessary risks with a snake before being bitten. We reviewed medical records of 86 consecutive rattlesnake bite victims cared for at a single medical center to determine legitimacy of snake bites. A bite was considered illegitimate if, before being bitten, the victim recognized an encounter with a snake but did not attempt to move away from the snake. A legitimate bite was said to have occurred if a person was bitten before an encounter with a snake was recognized or was bitten while attempting to move away from a snake. The study group was made up of 75 male (87.2%) and 11 female (12.8%) victims. Seventy-four percent were 18 to 50 years old, and 15% had been bitten previously. Only 43.4% of all bites were considered legitimate, and pet (captive) snakes accounted for almost one third of all illegitimate bites. The ingestion of alcoholic beverages was associated with 56.5% of illegitimate bites versus 16.7% of legitimate bites (P less than .001). While 74.4% of bites were to upper extremities, only 27% of upper extremity bites were legitimate. All bites to the lower extremity were legitimate (P less than .001). Of 14 individuals bitten by pet snakes, all were men and 64.3% were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the bite.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic
  • Animals, Wild
  • Arizona
  • Child
  • Crotalid Venoms / poisoning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Snake Bites / classification
  • Snake Bites / epidemiology*
  • Snake Bites / etiology
  • Snakes


  • Crotalid Venoms