What do you do if you are bitten by an adder in the UK?

Somehow one doesn’t expect to be bitten by a snake in the UK, Australia, Africa or South America yes but in Wales!  And yet in the last week there have been two children who have been hospitalized because of adder bites. A 13 year old was rushed to hospital following a bite by an adder while he was running along sand dunes with his 15-year-old sister near Pwllheli beach. And a three year old boy was also rushed to hospital after being bitten by an adder while walking his dogs in a field near Rhosneigr, Anglesey

So how common and how dangerous are these bites?  According the NHS website about 100 adder bites are reported in the UK every year.  Most bites happen between June and August, with the number of bites peaking during July.  And according to the Forestry Commission website no one has ever died from an adder bite in the UK for over 20 years.

That said if an adder injects venom when it bites, it can cause serious symptoms including:

  • pain, redness and swelling in the area of the bite
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • dizziness and fainting
  • So what first aid should be applied after a snake bite?
  • remain calm and don’t panic; snake bites, particularly those that occur in the UK, are not often serious and rarely deadly
  • try to remember the shape, size and colour of the snake so you can let the hospital staff know
  • keep the part of your body that has been bitten as still as possible to prevent the venom spreading around your body
  • remove jewellery and watches from the bitten limb because they could cut into your skin if the limb swells
  • do not attempt to remove any clothing, such as trousers, but loosen clothing if possible.

Seek immediate medical help by dialling 999 or visit your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.

However I wouldn’t worry too much about adders as apparently statistically you have more chance of being killed by a wasp than dying at the teeth of Britain’s only venomous snake.

For more information go to www.nhs.uk

Adder photo taken from www.educationalresource.info/reptiles/5-adder.htm