Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Adder bites in Britain.

Br Med J 1976; 2 doi: (Published 17 July 1976) Cite this as: Br Med J 1976;2:153
  1. H A Reid


    Ninety-five cases of adder bite that have occurred in Britain over the past 100 years are reviewed. Most bites occurred in men who foolishly picked up the adder. Three-quarters of the victims reached hospital within two hours of the bite. When venom is injected the early symptoms include local swelling and discoloration, vomiting, diarrhoea, and early collapse, which often resolves spontaneously. In severe poisoning persistent or recurrent shock is the main feature. Children recover quickly but adults may take weeks or months to recover, during which there may be considerable disability in the bitten limb. Deaths are rare: only 14 deaths from poisoning were recorded in the past 100 years. In England and Wales only one death from adder bite was recorded in 1950-72, but there were 61 deaths from bee or wasp stings. In most cases simple symptomatic treatment is enough, but all patients should be carefully monitored. With persistent or recurrent shock Zagreb antivenom is indicated; and it should also be considered in adults seen within two hours of the bite to minimise morbidity from local effects.