University of Florida

Handling a Snakebite

It’s not uncommon to be walking along a trail or even in your neighborhood and come across a snake. While seeing these slithery reptiles is common, the risk of getting bit by a venomous or non-venomous snake is relatively small.

Accidents, however, do occur. If a snake bites you, it’s best to assume the snake is venomous and seek immediate medical care. Then, you should call the Poison Control Center’s National Hotline (1-800-222-1222) to know what to do before you receive medical help.

Review the following dos and don’ts to make sure you know what to do in the event of a snakebite.


  • Call 9-1-1 as soon as possible!
  • Move away from the snake—do not worry about positively identifying the type of snake.
  • If bitten on the legs or arms, keep the bite lower than the heart.
  • Use soap and water to clean the wound.
  • Try your best to stay calm.
  • Take off any jewelry (such as rings or watches) or tight clothing near the bitten area.
  • Keep a timeline of events—know the time of the bite, any symptoms present, and any medical measures taken—and share this information with the doctor.


  • Do not wait until symptoms show to get medical help.
  • Do not try to catch or kill it—leave the snake alone. 
  • If bitten on the legs or arms, don’t compress or constrict the wound, because doing so can cut off blood flow and lead to amputating the limb.
  • Do not ice, cool, heat, or apply electric shock to the bite.
  • Unlike common belief, do not cut the bite or try to suck the venom out of to the wound.  

Adapted and excerpted from:

S. A. Johnson and M. B. Main, Emergency Snakebite Action Plan” (WEC200), UF/IFAS Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department (rev. 06/2012).

S. A. Johnson and M. E. McGarrity, Dealing with Snakes in Florida’s Residential Areas—Emergency Planning” (WEC222), UF/IFAS Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department (rev. 02/2014).


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