How it Feels When a Cobra Spits in Your Face Revealed in Horrific Detail

Experts have revealed in detail what it feels like to be spat in the face by a cobra—one of the world's most venomous snakes.

A cobra bite can be fatal, if not treated as soon as possible. The snakes will typically look to flee rather than attack a human. But, if it is provoked or threatened it will defend itself, although their bite is not the only defensive option available to some species.

Several species of spitting cobra can be found throughout the world

One such species is the Mozambique spitting cobra, a snake native to Africa. It is considered one of the most dangerous snakes in the country.

A cobra spits venom
A stock photo shows a Mozambique spitting cobra. The venom can be incredibly painful in the eyes. Digital Vision/Getty

The reptile can be found in habitats across South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Nick Evans, a snake rescuer based in the Greater Durban area of South Africa, often encounters the species while working to remove them safely from households.

It is currently the snakes' mating season, meaning they are particularly active. Evans releases snakes back into the wild after removing them from a residential property.

"Mozambique spitting cobras, like other spitting cobras, can and will bite. In fact, in South Africa, along with the Puff Adder & Stiletto Snake, they are responsible for the most snakebites in that country every year. They do, unfortunately, have the tendency of entering homes," Evans told Newsweek. "However, if threatened, they will spit first."

Evans said pets, such as dogs, will often be spat at after accidentally provoking the snake.

"The cobra does not spit as a form of attack, it's purely self defense. I think it is absolutely genius. An animal with pepper spray (sort of). It is very efficient. Most of the time, it allows them to escape dogs unharmed, whereas most species would get fatally wounded or killed. It doesn't always work, but it usually does," Evans said.

Being spat at is infinitely better than being bitten, as it is rarely life threatening. And venom on the skin rarely causes any adverse reaction.

But that does not mean there is no pain. So what does it feel like?

'It burns'

Many of those who study the species will be all too familiar with what venom in the eye feels like.

"On the skin, I've never had any reaction. I've heard some people get redness or itchiness. I've had it in my mouth, it's ghastly! Extremely bitter. It's in the eyes that's a problem. It burns! It feels like a lot of sand in the eyes. Horrible feeling. I've unfortunately been spat at a few times in my line of work. I'd like to never experience it again," Evans said.

When a Mozambique spitting cobra feels threatened, it will target a person's eyes, Evans said.

"It wants to blind you so it can escape. It's clever. If the venom isn't rinsed out of the eyes, it could potentially cause permanent damage. So, it is extremely important to rinse the eyes out thoroughly, and immediately. Should this be done one should make a full recovery," Evans said.

"If injected, as in when bitten, that's a far worse situation. Their cytotoxic venom is destructive, painful, and can potentially kill. Bare in mind, the last thing they want to do is bite. They don't want to spit either, it just wants to be left alone."

'Instant pain'

Evans is not the only expert to experience the spitting cobras venom first hand.

Graham Alexander, a professor of herpetology at the University of the Witwatersrand, told Newsweek that he has been spat on many times by snakes throughout his career.

"The big advantage of spitting is that the cobra can defend itself at a distance, and also venom in the eyes produces instant pain. Usually snakebite does not produce instant pain probably because the driver for the evolution of venom was not defence," he said.

"If you are spat on your inner arm where the skin is thin and sensitive, it can go blotchy for a while. But in the eyes there is instant pain and it can make you feel pretty sick for several days, depending on how much venom gets into your eyes. But it does not usually kill or make you go blind."

While deaths from spat venom are rare, many people are allergic to it, meaning it caused more severe reactions.

"Lots of people become hypersensitive to cobra venom that is spat. Just walking into a room where spitters are kept can elicit a reaction—the technician that helped me with snake husbandry for my PhD eventually could not enter the room due to his allergies," Alexander said.

"Being bitten by a spitter is much more life threatening: the venom is really horrible and causes bad necrosis. And often the bites take a long time to recover from with permanent damage."