Copperhead

Topic Overview

The copperhead is a poisonous (venomous) pit viper found in central and eastern North America. Copperheads may leave distinctive double marks on the skin. They leave one, two, or three puncture marks on the skin, but you won't always see any marks.

A copperhead has:

  • Hourglass-shaped markings down the back.
  • Pitlike depressions behind the nostril.
  • A triangular head with slit-shaped pupils and fangs.
  • A single row of plates or scales on the undersurface of the snake, including the tail.

A copperhead does not have rattles but may shake its tail in warning. The snakes can be as long as 4 ft (1.2 m).

Symptoms of a bite from a copperhead usually appear from minutes to hours after the bite and include:

  • Severe, immediate pain with rapid swelling.
  • Bruising of the skin.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Changes in heart rate or rhythm.
  • A metallic, rubbery, or minty taste in the mouth.
  • Numbness or tingling around the mouth, tongue, scalp, feet, or the bite area.
  • Swelling in lymph nodes near the bite.
  • Signs of shock.

If you think you have been bitten by a copperhead, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Sean P. Bush, MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine, Envenomation Specialist
Last Revised June 6, 2012

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