Quiz – Venomous Myths

When Heather Heldreth, RN, and other nurses in the Coronary Care Unit at St. Joseph’s/Candler learned that the hospital recorded a large increase in snake bite patients last year, she wanted to learn more about what patients should do before they get to the hospital. She was surprised to find out that most of the conventional wisdom on immediate treatment was wrong. Take our quiz to get the antidote for snake bite misinformation:

1. All snakes will bite when threatened or surprised, but most will usually avoid people if possible and only bite as a last resort.
A. True
B. False

2. When helping a snake bite victim, you should NOT:
A. Allow the person to run or become over-exerted.
B. Apply a tourniquet.
C. Try to suck out the venom by mouth.
D. Apply cold compresses to the bite.
E. All of the above.

3. A snake bite victim can be given pain medication before getting medical attention.
A. True
B. False

4. If you are bitten by a snake, you need to:
A. Try to stay calm.
B. Remove rings or any constricting clothing.
C. Get medical help immediately.
D. All of the above.

5. The bite of a _____ may be painless at first, and major symptoms may not develop for hours.
A. Cobra
B. Copperhead
C. Coral snake
D. Cottonmouth (water moccasin)
E. Rattlesnake


1. A. True. Most species of snake are harmless and many bites are not life-threatening, but unless you are absolutely sure that you know the species, treat it seriously.

2. E. All of the above. Many popular beliefs about snake bite treatment are actually incorrect. Along with the above, you also should NOT cut into a snake bite, or raise the site of the bite above the level of the person's heart.

3. B. False. Do not give the person medication unless instructed by a doctor. In fact, do not give the person anything by mouth, including food or drink.

4. D. All of the above. You can try to identify the snake, but only if this can be done quickly and safely. Do NOT waste time looking for the snake or risk another bite from an agitated snake. Also, be aware that a dead snake can still bite from reflex.

5. C. Coral snake. Do NOT make the mistake of thinking you will be fine if the bite area looks okay and you are not in a lot of pain. Untreated coral snake bites can be deadly.

Call 911 or your local emergency number if someone has been bitten by a snake. If possible, call ahead to the emergency room so that antivenom can be ready when the person arrives. You may also call the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222). The center can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. 
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000