Common European viper

In Norway, we have one venomous snake species, the Common European viper (Vipera berus). The Common European viper venom is a complex mixture of several substances which act on the body in different ways. A bite can lead to anything from no reaction at all to severe poisoning.

Viper can cause severe poisoning, it has a dark zigzag band along the back

Common European viper

Illustration: Colourbox

A Common European viper bite usually looks like two point-shaped dots 3-9 millimetres apart. The severity of poisoning caused by the Common European viper partly depends on the age, weight and health of the person bitten, where on the body the snake bit and the amount of venom injected. In at least 30% of bite cases, no venom (= dry bites) is injected and no reaction occurs.

Symptoms of poisoning by a Common European viper

In cases where the snake has injected venom, symptoms will usually appear rapidly (often within 1-2 hours). You will often only experience mild symptoms such as pain, slight swelling and a bluish discoloration around the site of the bite. In severe cases, Common European viper bites can cause a deterioration in general condition, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, difficulty breathing and unconsciousness. The swelling can develop gradually and early treatment can be important to prevent the onset of severe symptoms.

If no symptoms have appeared within two hours after the bite, it is likely that you have suffered a dry bite.

First aid following poisoning by a Common European viper

Call 113 if you experience symptoms such as vomiting, dizziness, fainting, difficulty breathing or rapidly developing swelling.
In other cases, contact the Norwegian Poison Information Centre on 22 59 13 00 for advice on what to do next and treatment.

  • Stay as calm as possible; children should be carried to transport if possible
  • Do not touch the bite site (do not squeeze, cut or suck on the bite)
  • Keep the bitten body part still and, if possible, elevated

Who should go to hospital?

  • Anyone who experiences any symptoms, even mild symptoms
  • All children, the elderly and pregnant women
  • Anyone bitten anywhere other than on the arms and legs, such as on the buttocks, crotch, head region, chest, abdomen or back
  • People in poor general health
  • People taking ACE inhibitors (special blood pressure medication)

If you do not belong to any of the above categories, contact the Norwegian Poison Information Centre on 22 59 13 00 for advice on what to do next.

Treatment at hospital

At the hospital, you may be given an antidote.

A tetanus injection is administered according to the relevant guidelines (speak to a doctor/emergency medical service).