Advice on a python bite...

Dear VPI,

I'm assuming over the years you both have been tagged by adult blood pythons. I was just bitten on the wrist by an adult and have a lot of tension and swelling in the area. Can you recommend any specific protocol for handling this type of reaction or bites in general?  The nurse on wants to me to get a tetanus shot first thing in the morning or tonight at the emergency room. 

Can you assist in any way?  J.N.


Dear J.N.

A few times??? We've had thousands and thousands of python bites. Actually, not that many from adult blood pythons, but they are all pretty much one and the same. It's probably a small consolation at this point, but blood pythons actually have rather short teeth for a python.

The treatment for a puncture is a tenus shot. A tetanus shot is a good idea, especially if you haven't had one in the past five years. Snakes are not really known to "carry" tetanus, per se--usually the punctures bleed freely. I don't think that tetanus is any more of an issue in this case that it would be for any puncture wound. We do stay current on tetanus shots just for all of the other mishaps of life.

Right there on the wrist there are a lot of tendons and fascia that are shallow. The tension you report is probably due to the swelling and the swelling sounds like you have some underlying fascia or tendons that got clipped. You might even have a small hematoma. Neither should cause any particular worry--they are just the normal effects of multiple shallow perforations on the wrist. In the vast majority of bites, we would not expect antibiotics to be necessary, or anything else for that matter.

Do watch for signs of an infection, like red streaks up your arm a couple of days after the bite. In over 20,000 python bites (between the two of us) just one time has a bite resulted in an infection. It happened once to Tracy that a bite became infected and then Cipro was necessary to put that right.

In your shoes, I'd carry on, use the wrist, and expect the stiffness and swelling to go away in a day or two. I doubt that you're going to be any the worse for the wear.

Sorry to hear of the mishap and I hope you feel better soon.  DGB