King Cobra Bite: Surprising Facts We Bet You Didn't Know

Oluniyi Akande
Nov 03, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Feb 01, 2022
The Indian cobra in the grass.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 10.2 Min

King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) belongs to the Animalia kingdom.

It is the only member of the Ophiophagus genus. The average length of this snake species is 12.3 ft (3.75 m). These snakes can weigh up to 22 lb (10 kg).

The largest known king cobra was captured in Thailand and was 18 ft 4 in (5.5 m) long. There are 21 species of cobra in the world.

Among them, the king cobra is the most dangerous. It is the world's largest venomous snake species. These snakes are mainly found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia, India, and southern China.

A typical diet of a king cobra includes a variety of foods like lizards, birds, small mammals, and other snakes such as kraits and pythons. The venom from the snake bite can cause serious effects, including necrosis and paralysis.

The conservation status of the king cobra is vulnerable. In countries like China, Vietnam, and India, these snakes are protected. The king cobra bite has several toxins that can cause a life-threatening emergency.

We have curated a bunch of fun facts about king cobra bite death and king cobra bite mark. Do not miss out on them!

Once you finish reading this article, you can also check out our other interesting articles on alligator bite and mouse bite here at Kidadl.

King Cobra Bite Symptoms

The venom of a king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is neurotoxic, meaning it affects the nervous system. When compared to other venomous snakes like the Indian Taipan, coastal taipan, and saw-scaled viper, the venom of a king cobra is less potent. The venom carries toxins like cytotoxins and neurotoxins like alpha-neurotoxins and three-finger toxins.

You do not need the help of experts to identify the bite of a king cobra. It is usually self-diagnosable. There are a few signs and symptoms that will quickly help identify a king cobra's bite.

Swelling, redness, and pain in the bitten area are the first symptoms. Since the fangs of the snake pierce through your skin, you are likely to experience the above mentioned symptoms. King cobras have 0.5 in (1.27 cm) fangs that are placed on the upper jaw.

Since the neurotoxins affect the central nervous system of the human body, victims will experience drowsiness, respiratory paralysis, palatal paralysis, drooping eyelids, headaches, blurred vision, vertigo, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and stumbling gait. These symptoms are seen within 15-20 minutes after the envenomation.

Other general symptoms like generalized shock, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, warm skin, flushing in the face and body, hypotension, and irregular pulses are displayed within one to four hours after envenomation.

Cardiotoxic effects are only observed in a few king cobra bites. When this happens, the heart will fail to pump blood due to the damage to the heart muscles.

Nephrotoxic (damage to kidneys) effects are very rare in king cobra bites.

The dusky coloration of the skin, wound discharge containing both blood serum and blood, necrosis, local oedema (swelling caused by fluid accumulation) are some of the symptoms triggered by local tissue damage. In some cases, necrosis can be extensive. These symptoms can be seen within an hour of envenomation.

Fang marks from king cobra bites are quite large and well defined.

Frothing usually happens at an advanced stage when the snake bite is not treated. It indicates that the damage is severe.

The white substance occurs when the venom starts attacking the internal organs of the body and the central nervous system. As a result, the tongue will lose its control and the victim will not be able to swallow the saliva.

King Cobra Bite Treatment

A king cobra snakebite is very dangerous and must be taken seriously. Though there is a good chance for the snake bite to be a dry bite, immediate medical attention is needed to determine the type.

If it is a dry bite, that is, no venom has been released by the snake, the victim does not need serious treatment as there is no venom in the system. If it is not a dry bite, the following treatments are given to the patient.

First Aid: The bitten limb must be covered with a bandage and immobilized. Crepe bandages and splints can be used.

Treatment: Once the patient is admitted to the hospital, the treatment is started by peripheral intravenous infusion (PIVC), in which a catheter is inserted into the vein to introduce Hartmann's solution. Fluid management makes the antivenom treatment for snake bites more effective.

Urine samples and blood samples are collected for lab tests. The patient is monitored closely for other symptoms. Two types of antivenom have been developed for treating a king cobra snake bite.

Antivenom is made from horse serum. This causes the immune system to produce antibodies.

It also induces other adverse reactions like fever, aches, rash, and rapid heart rate. An antivenom can be either specific or non-specific.

Specific antivenom is used against one particular snake venom. In cases where the snake is identified, specific antivenom is administered. Polyvalent or no specific antivenom works against a variety of snake venoms belonging to those snakes that are native to a single location.

When the snake is unidentified, polyvalent antivenom is used as it has a higher rate of adverse responses. For a king cobra bite, tiger antivenom is the most preferred antivenom.

Antivenom is mainly used to neutralize the venom that is circulating in the body. The amount of antivenom depends on the severity of envenomation and symptoms.

Generally, four to six vials of antivenom are used for a small bite (1 vial = 3000 units), and for severe or multiple bites, 8-20 vials are used. If the symptoms do not subside after administering antivenom, the volume is increased.

Hydrocortisone and antihistamines are used before the antivenom serum infusion. This reduces the severity of adverse and allergic reactions in the patient. The former takes time to work, while the latter only suppresses the release of histamines, which trigger allergic reactions.

Hence, in a case where there is a chance of acute adverse reactions, this medicine does not help much. In the case of anaphylaxis, adrenaline is the most commonly used medicine.

Did you know? The specific antivenom is manufactured by the Red Cross in Thailand, and the non-specific antivenom is manufactured by the central research institute in India.

The King Cobra ready to attack.

How fast can a king cobra bite kill you?

These venomous snakes pose a great threat. The maximum volume of venom in a king cobra's venom sacs present in the head is 0.2 fl oz (7 fl ml).

Despite the fact that their venom is not the most dangerous among venomous snakes, the amount of neurotoxic substance they contain is substantial. A king cobra may deliver enough neurotoxic fluid to kill at least 20 humans and an adult elephant.

The neurotoxins affect the brain, respiratory centers, and central nervous system right away. This results in paralysis as well as cardiac failure.

Within 15 minutes of being bitten by a king cobra, the human body will be severely harmed. The evidence from fatal incidents states that the victim will only be able to survive for 30 minutes.

King Cobra Bite Survival Rate

King cobras rarely attack humans. Given the population size, the chances of coming across a king cobra are quite low. Even if you happen to come across one, the snake gives a few warnings before it actually attacks you.

It lets out a deep, loud hiss to make you aware of its presence and to let you know that it perceives you as a threat. The moment you hear this, it is best to slowly turn your body away from the snake and walk in the opposite direction.

King cobras usually look for an escape strategy before attacking.

This snake will avoid humans as they are shy. According to a report released by the University of Adelaide's Department of Clinical Toxicology, the mortality rate of the king cobra snakebite is 50–60%.

The record also states that there is roughly half a chance for the bite to be a dry or minor bite with non-fatal amounts of venom.

If the snake bite is treated immediately by admitting the victim to a hospital before skin necrosis and other complicated issues are developed by administering the right volume of anti-venom and providing other medical treatment within 30 minutes, the victim will be able to survive. Hence, medical treatment must be given as early as possible.

Did you know? India reports the highest number of snakebite cases in the world. Around 81,000 snake bites are reported in India each year, out of which 11,000 are fatal incidents.

So far, only four fatal king cobra encounters have been reported so far in India. Bhutan, a country in Southeast Asia, is known as the 'country of snakes' due to the variety of cobras found in the country.

However, most of these snakes are non-venomous. Australia has the highest number of dangerous snakes in the world. In the USA, out of the 85 snake bites, 18 were king cobra bites.

King Cobra Facts:

King cobras flash their hoods when they face danger. There are unique markings on the hoods.

The hood looks like it is a part of the skin. But it is a set of rib bones and muscles that can move easily. This is a defense mechanism that makes the snake look much larger than it is and scares the predators.

King cobras exhibit cannibalistic behavior. They eat other cobras and venomous snakes easily. The deadly toxins of other snakes do not affect king cobras as their stomachs produce digestive juices that break down the venom.

This snake can go without eating for several months or even years. So, once they find suitable prey, they will try to swallow the prey as a whole.

King Cobra Myths:

There are several myths about king cobras and their bites in India and Southern Asia.

For a long time now, it has been widely believed that king cobras will avenge their partner's death. This is a popular concept in films and even in literature.

When two snakes are in love and one snake is killed, the face of the killer is engraved in the partner's brain. This snake then sets out to take revenge.

From a scientific standpoint, this is not possible, as snakes do not have this type of advanced brain to remember the killer or generate empathy. Hence, they will not even understand the gravity of another snake dying.

People in Southern Asia believe that these snakes drink milk. This myth originated from the relationship between King cobras and Lord Shiva, the third god in the Hindu triumvirate.

Lord Shiva has a snake around his neck, representing the whole snake kingdom. It is said that all snakes, especially king cobras, worship Lord Shiva.

So on Nagapanchami, a day where snakes are worshiped, milk is offered to this snake with the belief that if the snake drinks the milk, it will protect the person and his or her family.

Scientists have quashed the myth, stating that snakes do not have the ability to break down or digest milk. Milk can cause indigestion and infections in snakes.

Prior to the festival, snake charmers starve their snakes, leaving them with no choice. Though some of them have developed tolerance, as giving milk has been in practice since an early age, most of the cobras die after drinking milk.

The Nagamani myth is popular not just in India but also in other parts of the world. This world-famous myth is about a mystical gem called 'Nagamani'.

Anybody who is able to get the gem will have abundant and unlimited wealth. They will lead a healthy life and have other magical powers.

It is said that the gem also heals patients who have been bitten by the snake. What is the connection between this gem and the king cobra? It is strongly believed that this gem is sealed safely inside the gigantic head of a king cobra.

There is no report or evidence to back this story up. However, since many false articles about the myth have been published, several king cobras are still being hunted and their heads are chopped off in hopes of finding the gem.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for king cobra bite, then why not take a look at bite force of pitbull bite, or king cobra facts?

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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