Mexican Beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum exasperatum)Bite
By Steve Angeli and Robert Applegate


What follows is an actual first hand account of a bite from a juvenile beaded lizard. 06/21/00 I was feeding my juvenile beaded lizards (the animal that bit me hatched 2-25-00). They had mouse-tails hanging from their mouths. I went to move one of them, so I could change their water. One swung around and I was bitten on the right thumb. The animal hung on for 5 to 10 seconds, then released. I experienced extreme pain immediately, with swelling. The pain became excruciating within 5 minutes. At 10 minutes I took 3 Vicodine and some Ibuprophen (I had left over from a dental prescription). At 15 minutes the swelling in my hand, fingers and wrist increased. The pain and swelling was starting up my arm. Within 30 minutes after the bite the pain began to radiate up my arm into my armpit. I experienced no other symptoms in any other part of my body, and no systemic reaction. One and a half hours the swelling was increasing half way up the forearm and my hand was feeling like it was going to explode, pain killers helping.

6-22 0800AM Swelling all the way to elbow with pain in hand, arm, and armpit area. The pain was intense enough that I went to the Doctor. They never had a case of this sort, so I advised them to call Arizona Poison Control Center. My Doctor got some tape messages and finally got someone who knew something about the needed treatment (ED: AZ has Gila Monsters, with similar venom). They then told my Doctor if there was no systemic reaction (i.e. vomiting, dizziness, accelerated heart rate, etc) that he would probably only have to treat me for infection and pain. I was given Vicodine for pain, a tetanus shot, and two antibiotics (Augmentin-Amoxcillin and Clavolanic-Cipro) twice a day for 10 days. 5pm 6-22 Swelling starting to subside, still taking pain meds. 9pm swelling subsiding, but still at about 80%.

06/23/00 0800 AM Decided to go to work. Swelling still at about 60%, stopped taking pain meds. 5pm swelling down to about 40%, but still very sensitive to the touch. Swelling seems worse at the top of the forearm, not so much at the thumb where bitten. 8pm swelling down to about 20%, area still sensitive to the touch. 10 pm swelling almost gone from hand, but still sensitive to the touch. Forearm still swollen. 10pm lifted weights at the gym until 11pm. Had numbness in right side of right hand, but worked out anyway.

06/24/00 0600AM swelling mostly gone but top of hand and forearm still sensitive to the touch. 9PM swelling gone but still experiencing sensitivity on the top of my hand and forearm. Some periodic numbness on right side of hand and pinkie finger.

06/28/00 One week later the top of my hand and forearm still sensitive to the touch, but have been using my arm normally since 6-23 6-28 7-5 symptoms gone!

The foregoing has been an account of a bite, as told by Steve Angeli to Robert Applegate. It should be noted that this was a very small lizard of a species that grows to exceed 3 feet in length, and another individual may be more or less sensitive to the venom. Any bite from a Heloderma lizard should be considered a very serious medical emergency and medical treatment should be sought immediately. In no way are we condoning self prescribing medications, this is just an account of what really happened, not necessarily the recommended way it should have been taken care of.

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