Bitten by an Adder in the UK


When you think of venomous snakes you would normally think of rattlers in Arizona, or snakes in the jungle somewhere where colourful and dangerous snakes are very common. But we also have a venomous snake in the UK, the Adder!

These shy snakes would usually slither off to their small holes as soon as they sense any type of vibration through the ground. Footsteps would normally be enough to cause them to retreat underground where they generally spend most of their time anyway.

But if you were creeping around with a camera taking pictures and carelessly put your hand on one – as I did – you could soon discover that contrary to rumour, a bite can turn out to be much worse than a bee sting!

The “being bitten” bit was just a sharp, quick and relatively painless nick, leaving behind a red mark and two small dots.

I realised that I should make my way to the nearest hospital to get treatment and luckily, I was with Simon Wyndham who offered me a lift there. Walking back up the hill to get to the car I tried to suck out any venom from the bite, I’m sure I’ve seen this on TV somewhere, but later found out that this was completely the wrong thing to do…ooops!

Simon set about getting the ‘sat nav’ up and running whilst I battled with ever increasing sweating and dizziness, but before we both knew it I had passed out. At first Simon thought I was messing about, but as I rolled around the front of the car (apparently dribbling on myself I’ve been told since), he soon realised the seriousness of the situation and got going.

I remember coming round and hearing him shouting my name. Looking out of the car window all I could see was outlines of everything, outlines of trees and of other cars. It was almost like a pencil drawing but this was the real world, was I going blind?!

Arriving at Stroud minor injury unit, Simon somehow bundled me into a wheelchair in an attempt to get me some medical help. What we didn’t realise was that the wheelchair we were given had uncontrollable wheels and a mind of its own. While Simon struggled to get me into the unit, I remember quite vividly a close encounter with the pavement and laughing to myself thinking, “that’s all I need, a face-full of tarmac”!

Once into the unit, things suddenly went into frantic mode as the staff whizzed me in to a resus room and started injecting me and putting in lines and drips all over the place. Things went very hazy as I drifted in and out of consciousness and I struggled to babble out my name and home phone number.

The next thing I knew I was in an ambulance and on my way to Cheltenham Hospital with lights flashing and sirens blaring. This is when things really started to get bad as I remember I was now struggling to breathe and was being violently sick. I started to feel pain all over my body and the pain in my chest and back was unbearable. I was shouting out for something to help with the pain and to help me to breathe and I was given shots of morphine and adrenalin to help ease it.

I must have passed out again but this time I came round in hospital Just in time to see my hard earned Kilimanjaro t-shirt being cut off of me-aaargh! Oh well, not going back to get another one. An ECG was put on to monitor my heart rate and another line put into the back of the hand. I was still finding it hard to breathe and still being really sick so I was injected with anti-venom. It took as little as fifteen minutes to work and I could feel myself start to come round more and the pain in my chest started to subside, only to be replaced with uncontrollable shaking.

Simon popped his head around the corner of the door to see how I was getting on and looked relieved that I was now in a conscious state. I was also relieved to be stable enough to be moved to a bed on a ward. My wife, son and mum turned up fairly shortly after and things became settled again and I started to feel almost normal. Well apart from the lines everywhere!

I spent that night in hospital and was told that not only had I been affected by the venom but I had also gone in to anaphylactic shock too. The biggest surprise from the bite was the way my arm swelled up to twice the normal size, thus leaving me to enjoy lots of sympathy for a while! By about a week later the swelling in my arm had gone down enough that you wouldn’t know anything had happened.

Do I hate Adders now? No, because after all it was only protecting itself and would normally do everything possible to avoid human contact. But I have a very healthy respect for them and also carry an epi-pen in my first aid kit just in case.

So what should you do if you get bitten? Well my advice is to call 999 (or 112 if you have no regular signal) from your mobile immediately and tell them you have been bitten and where you are. Sit or lie down in a calm manner and wait for the ambulance to arrive. I have heard that you should pour water on the bite but never suck out the venom!

A big thank you to Simon for effectively saving my life and the staff at the hospital were just brilliant!


Categories: Adder, Bite

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