European Adder (2/5)

There are 3 types of snake in Britain – The Grass snake, The Adder, and the much rarer Smooth snake. However, the Adder is the only venomous one, with the other two being completely harmless to humans.

ADDER BITES (50 – 100 people a year)

Adder bites are quite rare as they are very shy creatures. Sensitive to vibration they will often slip away out of sight before most people get chance to see them. However if they are cornered, grabbed, or trodden on they can and will bite, which can be very painful and will need medical attention immediately as there have been a number of fatalities over the years, with 14 recorded deaths since records began in 1876, with the last known fatality being in 1975.

Around 50 – 100 people get bitten by an Adder each year in Great Britain. Pets (dogs especially) are just as likely to get bitten also.


Adders are distinguished by a dark zigzagging line down their back, against a grey or light brown body. They also have a ‘V’ or ‘X’ shaped marking on their head.

If the snake is green-grey with a yellow collar, and dark bands on its sides (not on its back) then its probably a Grass snake, which are much more common in most parts of Britain. However it’s best to stay well back just in case!


  1. Stay calm. Most bites are not serious and can be easily treated. However do not underestimate it or delay in getting medical help.  Dial 999 for an ambulance or get to your nearest medical center as quickly as you can.
  2. Try and keep the part of your body that was bitten as still as you can if possible.
  3. Lie in the recovery position if you can and whilst waiting for the ambulance.
  4. Take off any jewellery and loosen any clothes near the bite in case of swelling.
  5. Take paracetemol for any pain.


  1. Do not go near the snake or try to kill it, as this could lead to multiple bites.
  2. Do not try to suck out the poison from the bite wound.
  3. Do not tie anything tightly around the body where the bite is.
  4. Do not take aspirin or ibuprufen as these can make the bleeding worse, stick to paracetemol only.


  1. Pain, redness and swelling in the area of the bite.
  2. Nausea and vomiting
  3. Dizziness and fainting.


Dogs are most commonly bitten on the legs or face. Here’s what to look out for –

  1. Swelling around the bite wound, which can often be severe.
  2. Pain, bleeding, lameness, lethargy, nervousness, tremors, drooling and vomiting.
  3. Young dogs are more at risk, as they are often curious and playful, unaware of the dangers.

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