Outdoors advises against the handling of coral snakes
This coral snake is an Eastern coral snake found in the
South Eastern part of the United States. There are two other
varieties: the Texas coral snake, and the Arizona coral snake.
Coral snakes account for approximately 30 bites per year in
the United States. All coral snakes are very brightly colored.
There are many variations of rhymes to help identify a coral
"Red on yellow, dangerous fellow"
"Red on black, friend to Jack"
"Red on yellow, kill a fellow"
"Red on black, venom lack"
The above rhymes are only for coral snakes
in the United States.
Coral snakes are Elapids, as opposed to pit vipers like the
copperhead, rattlesnake, and cottonmouth. Elapids have a neurotoxic
venom. After being bitten, early signs and symptoms include
tremors, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, eyelids
drooping, fixed pupils, and in severe bites respiratory depression.
Symptoms can be delayed up to 12 hours after being bitten.
The bite can be painless as opposed to a pit viper.
Treatment in the Outdoors:
Calming the victim down is of the utmost
importance. The Australian wrap technique is most commonly
used to localize the venom. Please be aware that there is
a risk of increasing tissue damage to the bite area. If one
can evacuate the victim quickly to a healthcare provider,
then one would advise against the Australian wrap technique.
If you are greater than 12 hours away, one should attempt
pressure immobilization by using the wrap.
Do not in any situation cut the bite wound,
attempt to suck or evacuate the venom, electric shock, or
ice. All of these have been shown to be more destructive and
cause more harm.
- Medical Treatment
All coral snake bites should be admitted.
It is advised that 3 to 5 vials of anti venom should be administered.
Vitals should be taken frequently and oxygen should be administered
to all victims. Hypotension should be treated with IV fluids
such as normal saline or Ringer's lactate. Before anti venom
begins, the person should be premedicated with IV antihistamines.
50 to 100 mg of diphenhydramine and 300 mg of cimetidine can
be given. For pit vipers, it is usually safe to discharge
the victim after 6 hours of being asymptomatic. For elapids,
the standard of care is to wait at least 24 hours before discharging.
Close follow up with a recheck within 24 hours is imperative.
For further treatment of children, please refer to Wilderness
Medicine by Paul S. Auerbach.
1. Wilderness Medicine,
Paul S. Auerbach
2. Emergency Medicine, A
Comprehensive Study Guide, Tintinalli, Kelen, Stapczynski
Thanks to Bwana Jim for the great photographs of this Coral
Bwana Jim is a great educator of wildlife. Please visit
his website: www.bwanajim.com