Venom refers to poisonous substances that are administered by an animal to its prey or enemy through a bite or sting. Depending on the species, its effects can range from mildly irritating to deadly.
While most often associated with snakes, venom is used by a variety of animals to kill prey or self-defend. Common venomous species include bees, scorpions, black widows, rattlesnakes, jellyfish, and stingrays.
Venoms are made of different proteins and enzymes with varying levels of toxicity. How a person responds to venom will depend upon what area of the body is affected and how much venom was secreted.
Signs and symptoms of a venomous bite or sting are wide ranging. A mild reaction may include pain and swelling at the site, hives, painful joints, fever, and swollen glands. A more severe reaction may include blurred vision, convulsions, diarrhea, numbness, rapid pulse, tissue death, low blood pressure, shock, and even death.
Seeking emergency treatment is advised for most types of venomous bites and stings, especially those from snakes. Medicines (antivenoms) can be given in the emergency room to offset the toxic effects of venom.
Many venomous bites and stings can be fatal if not treated immediately. Fortunately, if proper precautions are taken, the risk of getting a life-threatening bite or sting is very, very small.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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