10 Types of Snake Venom

Types of Snake Venom
Photo by Foto-Rabe

Our planet is home to many venomous snakes with different types of snake venoms. These cold-blooded predators inject their prey with deadly poisons that help them catch and devour their next meal.

Snakes are everywhere, they’re fast, and they can strike in an instant. While many are very dangerous, some aren’t as lethal as you might think—so there’s no need to panic.

We’ve created a guide about ten types of snake venom, along with how each poison can affect you. There are many types of snake venom, each with its deadly potential.

The most common types of venom include hemotoxic venom, neurotoxic venom, cytotoxic venom, and hemolytic venom.

In this post, we’ll keep things simple and focus on this article’s ten most common types of snake venom.

Table of Contents

1. Neurotoxins

Neurotoxins are one of the common types of snake venom. As their name suggests, neurotoxins can affect your nerves and brain. Symptoms can include blurred vision, slurred speech, paralysis, and loss of muscle control. 

Since neurotoxins interfere with your nervous system, they can quickly shut down any body part. The main treatment method is to treat symptoms (such as paralysis) immediately while waiting for antivenom. 

Antivenom is used to neutralize the venom to block its effects on you. Antivenoms are considered a  highly effective treatment, but they are only available in hospitals and nearby zoos where snakes are kept.

2. Coagulants

While most types of snake venom are meant to kill or paralyze, some venoms contain coagulants that help your blood clot. This venom works like a styptic pencil, helping clot blood and stop bleeding wounds. 

The mamba is famous for a large amount of coagulant in its poison. The mamba’s bite has been fatal in small doses due to rapid bleeding. 

If you have easy access to a mamba bite antidote—or know how to administer it yourself—you’re good. Otherwise, keep an eye on any cuts that might bleed, as you will need medical attention quickly.

Other coagulant snakes include the krait, South American bushmaster, and saw-scaled viper.

3. Cardiotoxins

Cardiotoxins interrupt normal heart function by preventing it from beating properly. Cardiotoxins can cause irregular heartbeats, chest pain, and even heart attacks.

Some species of venomous snakes also have neurotoxins, which interfere with nerve function in muscles, including those that help us breathe. 

Combined with cardiotoxins, these effects can be fatal within hours or days. Antivenoms are available for some snake bites and are often used to treat life-threatening bites caused by North American rattlesnakes. 

It is important to note that there is no antivenom for the bite of a black mamba, the fastest-moving snake in Africa. The victim would die before they received the antivenom!

4. Haemotoxins

These types of snake venom affect your red blood cells and clot your blood. The result is increased blood pressure, making it hard for blood to get where it needs to go. This can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and even unconsciousness. 

Researchers have found hemotoxins in mambas, kraits, and cobras. Even though the chance of a bite from these snakes is small, hemotoxins may also be found in vipers and bushmasters. Hemotoxins cause damage to red blood cells, resulting in internal bleeding. 

In Australia, a haemotoxic is responsible for more than 90 percent of deaths due to snakebites. A worldwide comparison shows that hemotoxins and death cases are most common in Africa and Australia.

The majority of these bites occur when people step on or try to kill snakes. In almost all cases, death occurs within 30 minutes.

However, some people can survive after antivenom treatment if they receive it within 24 hours. For this reason, it’s important to get medical attention immediately if a snake bites you. 

5. Neuromuscular Blockers

These types of venom are slow to act and usually don’t have any immediate effects. However, if you experience paralysis, respiratory failure, and extreme pain, you may have been bit by a snake with neuromuscular-blocking venom. 

These venoms work by paralyzing your muscles’ nerve endings so they can no longer send signals to your central nervous system. If left untreated, it can result in respiratory failure and death.

Fortunately, antivenin is available for these types of snake venom. Antivenin will effectively stop its effects on your body within 24 hours if given quickly enough.

The most common types of snakes with neuromuscular-blocking venom are rattlesnakes and copperheads.

6. Ribosome Inhibitors

The anticoagulant components in snake venom are called ribosome inhibitors, which attack parts of our cells responsible for protein synthesis. Many multiple types of snake venoms,  each produced by a different evolutionary lineage. 

For example, mambas (genus Dendroaspis) are part of a lineage that uses plain old coagulants such as defibrinogenating toxins.

Rattlesnakes and copperheads (Crotalus) are members of another group that secretes both coagulants and hemorrhagic neurotoxins.

A third type, which does not appear to be correlated with any specific evolutionary group, includes phospholipase, which causes cellular damage.

7. Cytotoxins

These proteins can cause cell death by causing a cell to lose control over its normal processes. Some famous examples of cytotoxins include ricin, botulinum toxin, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin A. Cytotoxins are among nature’s most deadly poisons. 

Cytotoxins toxicity doesn’t depend on injection or inhalation; skin contact is enough to trigger the toxic effects in many cases.

However, cytotoxins do not attack an organism’s cells directly; the toxins enter a cell without provoking an immune response.

8. Anticoagulants

Anticoagulants stop your body from making clots, so there’s no stroke or heart attack risk. However, if left untreated, anticoagulant bites can lead to kidney failure.

Antidotes are available for these types of snake venom, and these antidotes must be administered within 12 hours of being injected with this type of snake venom through snakebite. 

These types of snakes live in Asia, Australia, and North America. While most people would know what an adder is, boomslangs are less well known. Boomslangs live in Africa and Southeast Asia, and their bite can cause paralysis.

Rattlesnakes also can produce these types of snake venom, which stops blood clotting. The black mamba also has an anticoagulant that it injects into its prey and through its teeth when biting humans. A bite from this type of snake could lead to multiple organ failures without treatment.

9. Cardiotoxins

In small doses, certain cardiotoxins are used as painkillers. In large doses, however, these substances can cause paralysis.

A cardiotoxin bite could be fatal depending on how much venom is injected and how quickly you receive treatment. 

If you’re in a region where such snakes live and you are bitten by one, call for help immediately. Some people die after trying to walk home after being bitten because they start feeling ill before leaving sight.

Cardiotoxins are hard to detect; whether or not any swelling or irritation occurs after a snakebite, seek medical attention immediately.

10. Myotoxins

Myotoxins are most commonly associated with coral snakes, which disrupt muscle and nerve cells by preventing them from breaking down.

Myotoxins are so potent that they can cause death if not treated immediately. However, although coral snake venom is extremely dangerous, there have been no known deaths caused by it.

If bitten by a coral snake, you should seek medical attention immediately and be prepared to have antivenom treatment administered. There are effective treatments for the most common type of snake bite; rattlesnake and coral snake bites. 

Luckily, these snakes are found mostly in the southwest United States and parts of Mexico, Central America, South America, and Asia.

There’s usually enough time to get help if you’re bitten before symptoms worsen; symptoms worsen after one hour of bite.

Conclusion

With the types of venom as potent as it is, it’s safe to say that snakes are some of nature’s most dangerous creatures. However, you can do something to protect yourself against snakebites. Learn to identify a snake in your area, so you know what you’re dealing with before it bites. 

Another great defense has antivenom on hand. If a venomous snake has bitten you, seek immediate medical attention or call the poison control centers.

With so many species out there—and many more discovered each year—getting acquainted with venomous snakes can help save your life!

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