Skip to Content

Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)

Topic Overview

The cottonmouth, also called a water moccasin, is a poisonous (venomous) snake found in southeastern and south central North America. They leave one, two, or three puncture marks on the skin, but you won't always see any marks.

Water moccasins can be up to 6 ft (2 m) long and have:

  • Distinctive white coloring inside the mouth.
  • Pitlike depressions behind the nostrils.
  • A triangular head with slit-shaped pupils and fangs.
  • A single row of plates or scales on the undersurface of the snake, including the tail.

Symptoms of a cottonmouth bite usually appear from minutes to hours after a bite and can include:

  • Severe, immediate pain with rapid swelling.
  • Discoloration of the skin.
  • Difficult or rapid breathing.
  • Changes in heart rate or rhythm.
  • Metallic, rubbery, or minty taste in the mouth.
  • Numbness or tingling around the mouth, tongue, scalp, feet, or the bite area.
  • Swelling in lymph nodes near the bite injury.
  • Signs of shock.

If you think you have been bitten by a water moccasin, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Sean P. Bush, MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine, Envenomation Specialist
Last Revised June 6, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Classes & Events

  • Sep
    15
    Monday
    10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
    Yoga for Arthritis is a medically-based yoga class specifically designed to improve pain and mobility. This class is for people experiencing joint pain.
  • Sep
    15
    Monday
    12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
    Learn to break free of old habits and replace them with new healthy patterns of thinking. Learn powerful tools and strategies to start eating mindfully.
  • Sep
    15
    Monday
    1:30 PM - 2:30 PM
    Learn different techniques to deal with stress. Restore your peace of mind so that you can be pro-active when faced with any problem.

Section Links