Lizard Envenomation Treatment & Management

Updated: Oct 27, 2015
  • Author: Robert L Norris, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Prehospital Care

No evidence-based recommendations have been determined for field management of lizard envenomation.

If the lizard remains attached to the victim, it immediately should be removed by any of a number of methods, such as prying the jaws apart with a stick or metal object, holding a flame under the animal's chin, or submerging the lizard in cold water. Care should be exercised to prevent additional bites to the victim or rescuer as the lizard will be enraged.

If possible, the wound should be washed quickly with running water. Place a dressing on the wound to control any active bleeding, and apply a splint to limit movement of the extremity. The limb can be kept at approximately heart level during transport to medical care.

No evidence to recommend the use of constrictive bands, compressive dressings, or suction is available. Tourniquets should not be used.

Do not make any incisions into the already damaged tissues.

Although ice has been used to reduce pain, it can exacerbate local vasospasm.

Victims showing evidence of shock should be kept in a supine position with legs elevated. If oxygen and intravenous fluids are available, these should be administered during transport to the hospital.


Emergency Department Care

Closely monitor vital signs.

Immediately begin cardiac and pulse oximetry monitoring.

Establish 2 IV lines with isotonic sodium chloride solution.

If hypotension occurs, begin brisk crystalloid resuscitation. If vital signs fail to improve with adequate saline infusion (eg, 20-40 mL/kg), albumin can be administered. Vasopressor agents rarely are necessary, but they may be beneficial in refractory cases.

Wound care

Clean the wounds with soap and water, and evaluate them for retained foreign bodies.

A local anesthetic, such as lidocaine (without epinephrine), can be injected at the bite site to aid in pain control and to assist in exploration of the wounds for retained teeth or damage to underlying structures. Regional nerve blocks and judicious use of narcotics can be helpful in controlling pain. A non–histamine-releasing narcotic, such as fentanyl, may be preferable.

The extremity should be splinted and kept at (or slightly above) the patient's heart level to reduce edema.

Because of the significant local tissue trauma, prophylactic broad-spectrum antibiotics may be administered for a few days, although this treatment is controversial and untested.

Tetanus immunization status should be updated as necessary.



Consult an expert in reptile envenomations to assist in management, as necessary. An excellent resource for assistance is the University of Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center (telephone: 520-626-6016).