“The Mason County Emergency Medical Services sees many different injuries every month. During the summer months, injuries change, please use care when around walking in the Hill Country,” said Reggie Loeffler Director of EMS. He offers these suggestions for injury prevention.
The hot and dry conditions in Central Texas are impacting our region in many ways, including one that is not especially desirable: Snake bites are up. Generally, there are about 8,000 snake bites recorded across the United States. The most common poisonous snakes in Central Texas include the rattlesnake, copperhead, water moccasin and coral snake.
“The first three are pit vipers and their venom is similar. Venom is injected through the fangs and can cause swelling and local tissue destruction. The bites are treated with antivenin, the antidote to the pit viper venom. It has good effectiveness, excellent for rattlesnakes and very good for copperheads and water moccasins. Coral snake venom acts on the neurological system. Coral snakes have smaller mouths and have to kind of chew a little bit to inject venom. If you see a snake gnawing on you and there is any chance you were bitten, shake it off and get the wound evaluated. Treat all snake bites as if they were poisonous. You don’t want to run the risk.”
What to Do If Bitten
If you or someone else is bitten by a snake, the most important thing to do is remain calm and seek immediate emergency treatment. The following is a list of actions recommended by Dr. Coldwell Emergency Dept. physician at Hill Country Memorial Hospital.
• Do immobilize the affected area as soon as possible and get the wound at the level of the heart. “Holding your hand up will distribute the venom through your system faster and holding it down will increase swelling. Lie down if you can.”
• Do expect immediate severe pain or swelling. “Seek emergency care as soon as possible.”
• Do get away from the snake. “Many people are bitten twice or a companion is bitten because they are trying to kill or catch the snake. It is not necessary to kill the snake and bring it in. We don’t need to see the snake.”
• Don’t apply a tourniquet or cut the wound and suck out the venom. “Those are old wives’ tales in Texas and not recommended.”
• Don’t put ice on the wound.
• Don’t drive yourself for care. “Call an ambulance or have a friend drive you. Lie down in the back seat.” Antivenom treatment is generally most effective within the first four hours of envenomation, and is ineffective after 8-10 hours
1. Know and be alert for the symptoms of shock, and institute the proper treatment should it ensue. Difficulty in breathing and or kidney failure are frequent symptoms of envenomation.
2. Wash the bite area with a disinfectant if available.
3. Remove jewelry such as rings and watches, as well as tight-fitting clothes, before the onset of swelling.
4. Reduce or prevent movement of a bitten extremity, using a splint if possible; this helps decrease the spread of venom. For the same reason, position the extremity below the level of the heart.
The best defense is to avoid snakes altogether if you see them. Most people don’t see the snakes and sometimes step on them or reach into areas where snakes are hiding. The following tips can help keep you and your family safe:
• Look where you are walking.
• Wear shoes when outdoors, preferably boots if you are in the woods or area of significant vegetation.
• Avoid trash, brush or high grass.
• Look before you reach into rocky crevices, underneath rocks or around vegetation where you can’t see the ground.
• Watch kids and pets, especially in areas where they are going to play. Their smaller size puts them more at risk for the consequences of snake bites