Tag Archives: snake bite

Snake Bite – Red-Necked Keelback – Rhabdophis subminiatus

A couple months back I received an email from a concerned father whose son was bitten by a red-necked keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus) he had found in their neighbor’s garden.

“My son is suffering from non clotting, severe swelling, and paralysis and is now in ICU, where his vital and neuro signs are ok, but blood not good.”

These snakes have, in the past, not been identified as a dangerous snake. Many people have them as pets, and free-handle them with bare hands. Sometimes these snakes bite, but once they are handled a bit they usually calm down and rarely bite. There have been some cases in the literature where bites have resulted in hospitalization, and there has been a push to identify these snakes as what they are – venomous, and dangerous.

Colubrids, rear-fanged snakes, are nearly all venomous. Venom is modified saliva that helps the snake kill and break down the body of their chosen food.

I was excited to have a response from the father of this boy that spent 2 weeks in a Thailand hospital after suffering 2 bites from this snake.

Here’s what I learned after some questions by email…

1. Can you tell anything about how the bite occurred? Was the snake typically calm – and then, out of the ordinary behavior – it bit your son?

Calm, he was showing off to his friend’s that he can handle snakes, this was a wild one not a pet. He has a constrictor, a corn snake and a python as pets, all fairly placid, but the keelback he had no understanding of.

2. Approximately how long did the snake bite down on your son’s hand? Was it less than 1 second? 1-3 seconds? 3-5? 10? 60 or more? This is the most important question because in the past we haven’t seen enough venom transferred from quick bites, or even repetitive quick bites…

Between 30-40sec I believe, wouldn’t let go

3. Did the snake bite more than once that day?

Bit him twice within a few minutes.

4. Did the snake routinely bite your son – often?

First time.

5. Can you tell me approximately how long was the snake? Do you have any photos of it? Can you please send if you do?

No photo’s I’m afraid, he didn’t mention how long it was, but he will be back from school at the weekend, and I’ll fish more info out of him.

6. Did you get the snake in Thailand? There in Phuket, or where?

Wild snake in his friend’s garden (Phuket).


So, here again – the snake bit down for an extended period of time – 30+ seconds, and had time to squeeze a lot of venom into the boy’s hand.

There is no known anti-venin for the Rhabdophis subminiatus as it is here in Thailand. In Japan there is a small amount of antivenin produced for their local species. To my knowledge there has been nobody treated with this antivenin outside of Japan, and I’m sure they would not be all that interested to give up some of their small supply to export to another country.

More information on venom toxicity and treatment after bite by this snake: R. subminiatus.

Venom Characteristics (from http://www.afpmb.org/content/venomous-animals-r#Rhabdophissubminiatus)

Mainly procoagulants, which can cause renal failure; plus mild neurotoxic factors. Envenomation does not always occur. Bite may be almost painless w/ minimal local swelling. Symptoms of envenomation may include local numbness, headache, nausea, & vomiting; in severe cases renal failure has caused human deaths. No known antivenom currently produced.

LD50 for intravenous injection – .125 to .129 mg/kg. That is extremely venomous, in the same category as Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait), Naja kaouthia (Monocled Cobra), and O. hannah (King Cobra).

One WHO (World Health Organization) publication about the management of venomous snake bites in Southeast Asia mentions the antivenin for Rhabdophis tigrinus in Japan as having some effect on the venom of R. subminiatus. I am not sure if this is strictly for R. subminiatus found in Japan, or not. Worth a try though if you can get them to send you some antivenin. Otherwise, there is no other option – there is no monovalent antivenin specifically for R. subminiatus.

Japan Snake Institute
Nihon Hebizoku Gakujutsu Kenkyujo
3318 Yunoiri Yabuzuka
Yabuzukahonmachi Nittagun Gunmaken 379-2301
Tel 0277 785193 Fax 0277 785520
Yamakagashi (Rhabdophis tigrinus) antivenom. Also effective against rednecked keelback (R. subminiatus venom)

I have some time today, and I’m curious what their response will be. I’ll write them to see whether they could, in an emergency, be able to send some antivenin here to Thailand to treat a bite by R. subminiatus or R. tigrinus.

OK, I’ve written them, lets see if they respond…

Thailand Snake Note – Bitten by Snake?

If you are bitten by a snake in Thailand or anywhere in Southeast Asia, and you don’t KNOW that it is a non-venomous snake:

1. Find someone to help you get to the hospital immediately – don’t wait for symptoms and don’t drive yourself.

Emergency Numbers:

1155 – Tourist Police – English speaking; 191 – Thai police nationwide; 1669 – Ambulance nationwide; 1646 Bangkok ambulance.

If you have some time between when your ride leaves (like waiting for ambulance):

2. Clean wound with water. Be gentle, don’t scrub harshly especially if the wound burns intensely. If you know the snake that bit you was a viper – do not touch the wound site, just rinse with water.

3. This next part (#3a) is if you know what kind of snake it is. Go straight to #3b if you don’t know positively which snake bit you.

3a. If the snake that bit you is a pit viper – any green viper, or the brown Malayan pit viper or Russel’s Viper (Chain Viper), just rinse the area with water. Don’t touch it, just let it bleed out some if you can. If great amounts of blood – apply a light pressure to stop the bleeding, of course. Ideally you don’t want to wrap a viper bite with a compression bandage, it can cause more damage.

3b. If you do NOT KNOW what type of snake it was that bit you, Immediately apply a pressure bandage or wrap a piece of clean dry cloth around the bite site as well as above and below the bite by a few inches. This is essential for krait, coral, and cobra bites. Elastic wraps that you use for ankle sprains work well. Wrap it snugly, but you should still be able to put a finger under the bandage.

4. Stay as still as possible. Tell someone or write down what you can remember about the snake – color? thickness? pattern? Was it in a tree? On ground? Identifying the snake is very important so you get the right antivenin, if one is needed.

5. Antivenin is given after you start to have symptoms, not before. Some bites are “dry bites” and inject no venom.

Caution… anti-venin (also called anti-venom) OFTEN causes severe allergic reaction. This allergic reaction can be deadly in some cases. Get good advice on the necessity of anti-venin before it is administered. The doctors should do a test to see if you’re allergic to it first before full-scale administration of anti-venin. Insist on it.

Do Not:

  • Suck the poison out or use any devices to suck out the venom, it can cause more damage to tissue if it is a viper bite.
  • Use a tourniquet
  • Use ice over the wound
  • Drink alcohol, food, or use aspirin – Paracetamol is OK for pain, better if you take nothing before going to the hospital.
  • Use herbal remedies


Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Thai Red Cross Society,
Bangkok, Thailand (662) 252-0161-4; qsmi@redcross.or.th

Some information was collected from various what we think are legitimate sources of emergency information regarding snake bite.

If you want to dispute these steps – please send email to: info@thailandsnakes.com.

Once you identify the snake that bit you – here is some more information by snake name – scientific classification:

AFPMB – Database of Venomous Animals and Plants (click)

Here is the database listing venomous snakes by country:

AFPMB Database of Snakes by Country (click)

Snake Bite! Thai Man Bitten by Monocled Cobra (Naja)

Thai man bitten by a monocled cobra - Naja kaouthia - in Thailand at a snake show
Closeup of cobra bite site on inner right thigh.

I was visiting my friends at the snake show yesterday. One of them was bitten 5 days ago by a Naja kaouthia during one of the shows. It bit his leg through the pants – and got him with both fangs.

Nobody expects this to be a life-threatening bite because he has been bitten 4 times in total now – by the Naja kaouthia (monocled cobra). Humans build up a resistance to the venom over time, and to see the small wound that he has now – it’s hard to believe one of the most deadly snakes in the world bit him.

I’ll attach a video here of me interviewing Dtom and Jackie about how the bite happened – when I get a faster internet connection – right now it’s junk and not working well for a big upload to YouTube.