Wilderness Medicine, First Aid, and Outdoor Skills
Eastern Coral Snake

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US Army First Aid Manual
Fundamental Criteria for First Aid
Basic Measures for First Aid
First Aid for Special Wounds
First Aid for Fractures
First Aid for Climatic Injuries
First Aid for Bites and Stings
First Aid in Toxic Environments
First Aid for Psychological Reactions
Appendix A: First Aid Case and Kits, Dressings, and Bandages
Appendix B: Rescue and Transportation Procedures
Appendix C: Common Problems/Conditions
Appendix D: Digital Pressure
Appendix E: Decontamination Procedures
Appendix F: Glossary


Coral SnakeSurvive 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 snake.

"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.

Eastern Coral SnakeEmergency 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.

Healthcare Provider - 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 Snake.

Bwana Jim is a great educator of wildlife. Please visit his website: www.bwanajim.com

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