Beware of Heat and Dry Conditions to Avoid Snake Bites

HOUSTON (May 24, 2011) – Gardening buffs, landscape warriors or children enjoying the outdoors should take heed of slithering creatures. If accidentally disturbed, snakes could cause a problem.

As the temperature rises, snakes will seek refuge in shady areas under patios, deep in vegetation and crevices in the cool areas of houses and yards. A rule of thumb — don’t disturb an unfamiliar area of ground without first examining it for signs of crawling inhabitants.

Dr. Mike Rice, emergency physician, Emergency Center, Ben Taub General Hospital, recommends treading carefully to avoid snake bites.

“Most snakes are as afraid of you as you are of them, and don’t want to have anything to do with you,” Rice says.

That said, some snake bites can be deadly if not treated quickly. Because of their smaller body size, children are at higher risk for death or serious complications from snake bites.

If dealing with a poisonous snake, the right antivenin can save a person's life. Getting to an emergency room as soon as possible is very important. If properly treated, many snake bites will not have serious effects.

Over the years, Rice and his colleagues at the Harris County Hospital District hospital have treated a few patients for snake bites. While rarely resulting in death, the pain and discomfort are enough to merit a warning.

If bitten by a snake, Rice suggests the following:

• Stay calm
• Don’t apply anything to the wound — ice, water and ointment
• Keep wound level with your heart
• Don’t apply a tourniquet
• Don’t attempt to suck out the poison
• Call 9-1-1 for an ambulance or have someone drive you immediately to an emergency center
• Remove any rings or constricting items
• Bring in the dead snake or be prepared to describe it. If bringing the snake, make sure it can be done safely. Do not waste time hunting it, and do not risk another bite. Also, be careful during the transport — a snake can actually bite from reflex for up to an hour after it’s dead.
• If the area of the bite begins to swell and change color, the snake was probably poisonous

Depending on the type of snake, some symptoms may include:

• Bleeding from wound
• Blurred vision
• Burning of the skin
• Convulsions
• Diarrhea
• Dizziness
• Excessive sweating
• Fainting
• Fever
• Increased thirst
• Loss of muscle coordination
• Nausea and vomiting
• Numbness and tingling
• Rapid pulse
• Tissue death
• Severe pain
• Skin discoloration
• Swelling at the site of the bite
• Weakness

Resource: National Institutes of Health’s Medicine Plus®

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