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Snakebite enquiries to the UK National Poisons Information Service: 2004–2010
  1. James Michael Coulson1,2,
  2. Gillian Cooper1,
  3. Channarayapatna Krishna1,
  4. John Paul Thompson1,2
  1. 1National Poisons Information Service (Cardiff), Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Cardiff, UK
  2. 2Institute of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Paul Thompson, National Poisons Information Service Cardiff Penlan Road, Cardiff CF64 2XX, UK; ThompsonJP{at}


Objective To describe trends regarding snakebite enquiries to the UK National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) from 2004 to 2010.

Methods The NPIS telephone enquiry database, the UK Poisons Information Database, was interrogated for enquiries to the four NPIS units from 2004 to 2010. Search terms used were ‘snake’ and ‘snakebite’. Information from the national dataset was available from Cardiff and Edinburgh units from 2004 onwards, Birmingham from June 2005 and Newcastle from September 2006.

Results Five hundred and ten cases were identified, of which 69% were male and 31% female. Average age of cases was 32 years (±1 95% CI). The snake was identified as follows: British Adder in 52% of cases, an exotic species in 26%, unknown in 18% and another UK snake in 4%. 82% of cases occurred between the months of April and September. Cases peaked during August (19%). Forty-two per cent of enquiries involved features of envenoming. Eighty-five cases were assessed as requiring antivenom. Eighty-four cases received treatment with antivenom. No adverse reactions to the antivenom were reported and resolution of clinical features was reported in all treated cases. Advice to use an antidote was followed in 98.8% of cases.

Conclusions Snakebites account for one to two NPIS cases per week. Adder bites account for over half of cases. A quarter of cases were due to non-UK snakes kept in captivity within the UK. Envenoming was said to have occurred in just under half of all cases. Advice given by the NPIS appears to closely reflect national practice guidelines.

  • envenomation
  • poisoning, envenomation
  • toxicology

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