Common European Adder/Viper – If you are bitten

If you or a friend have been bitten by a common European adder/viper, stop reading this call for help immediately. If help delays, read steps 1-3 below.

Depending on the type of outdoor life you engage in, you might sometimes face a snake. Maybe even a common European adder/viper. In that case, it’s important to know how to identify them and how to act if bitten by one. This viper (Vipera berus in Latin) is, unfortunately, tricky to identify due to its variety in color, but after reading this, you’ll hopefully know the basics.

These snakes become approximately 60-90 cm (1-3 feet) long but can in some individual cases be up to 100 cm (3.3 feet). The common European adder usually has a relatively light base color, commonly light brown, and a dark zigzag pattern along the back (easiest way to spot these snakes). But are also all-black varieties that can be mistaken for other snakes. However, snakes can also look different in other ways. It can for example have a lighter base color, silver-gray to light gray-blue color, or reddish-brown, and it can sometimes even lack a zigzag band on the back.

Another way to help you recognize the common European adder is to look at its eyes. Its pupils are black and vertical (like a cat’s). But this is something you should only look at from a safe distance. Fortunately, red tends to stand out, so it shouldn’t be that hard to determine.

The common European adder/viper comes in many colors.
Bjoertvedt. Natrix natrix and Vipera berus at the Universeum Science Park in Gothenburg, Sweden.

If you get bitten by a Vipera berus

A bite by this snake usually shows itself as two smaller dots on the skin with a space of 6-9 mm / 0.24-0.35 inches. It often comes with a blue swelling around the area and it’s common to hurt.

This snake’s bite can range from very mild to life-threatening. Factors that affect this are age, body mass, pregnancy, location of the bite, amount of venom, and hypersensitivity (anaphylactic shock/allergy shock). In conclusion, it’s more dangerous for children and animals to be bitten by these venomous snakes.

If you or anyone else gets bitten by a Viper berus, make sure to follow the steps below to minimize the risks and get the correct help as soon as possible.

1. Lie down

By lying down you can easier relax and hold the body part that was bitten high, you can make the venom spread slower. But try not moving too much you have been bitten, so ask a friend to hold the arm for you or lean it towards something.

2. Call for help

Call a poison information center and go directly to a hospital, but not by yourself. But in case of effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, cold sweats, palpitations, swollen lips, or breathing difficulties, you should immediately call for an ambulance for transport to the hospital.

3. Remove objects that can stop blood circulation

If you have been bitten by a common European adder/viper, the entire limb that has been bitten can swell up. Therefore, it is important that you remove rings, bracelets, watches, and shoes so that these do not stop the blood flow. Remember: you want to slow down blood circulation, not stop it.

Leave all treatment to professionals, else you can aggravate the condition!

Unknown photographer.

Ways to avoid getting bitten

Wear protection! These snakes have short fangs, so a pair of rubber boots should be enough. But make sure they’re high enough to protect some of your legs as well. All snakes aren’t on the same level as your feet.

Now that you’re protecting your feet (and legs), it’s time to learn what to avoid. Always try to avoid areas you know are filled with snakes. This could be in ditches with tall grass, areas with roots where they might nest, and sometimes even on cliffs. It is better to walk a few extra seconds if it means you don’t have to disturb the snakes.

If you have to walk close to these snakes or are unsure if there are any close by, you can stamp on the ground. Snakes will sense this and usually hide. And if you would encounter one, do not annoy it. Back off.

Closing remarks

I hope you now have an idea of how to identify these snakes and what to do if you’re unlucky enough to be bitten by this snake! But don’t let this article scare you from engaging in outdoor activities. Fortunately, the risk of being bitten is very small.

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Cover by: Trapp, Benny. Vipera berus.
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