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Hospital ER Trauma Team Offers Snake Bite Tips
Wednesday, July 15, 2009 • Posted July 15, 2009

Summer is a time to enjoy the outdoors, but fun can quickly turn to tragedy when encountering a poisonous snake.

Cindy Loeffler, RN, is the trauma nurse coordinator for Hill Country Memorial Hospital. She said emergency room employees are well aware of poisonous snake dangers.

“Medical science has enabled effective treatments depending on the snake and the location of the bite, but much depends on a person’s response after getting bitten,” Ms. Loeffler said.

Ms. Loeffler recommended following these poisonous snake tips from the Texas Trauma Coordinators Forum:

There are only four poisonous snake species found in the United States and you can find them all in Texas. They are:

-Rattlesnake (Multiple sub species) and they are all poisonous.

-Cottonmouth Moccasin (Water Moccasin)

-Copperhead

-Coral Snake

The first three species of snakes listed produce hemotoxic (blood) and tissue toxic bites. Each of these snakes are pit vipers and have a triangular head, elliptic pupils, fangs in the upper mouth, and a pit between the eye and nostril—thus the name pit vipers. Most bites from these snakes occur when handling a snake or when reaching down for objects on the ground—on the lower leg between the foot and knee or hands and arm.

In most instances pit viper bites cause some swelling around the bite area within five to ten minutes. The pain, although not severe at first, increases in severity as edema progresses.

The coral snake is neurotoxic (attacks the nervous system), has a very colorful body with yellow, red, and black banding which is a true danger to small children who want to pick them up. Although the fangs are small, they can deliver destructive venom. The Coral snake chews to inject the venom and the quicker you remove the snake, the less venom is injected. Most bites from these snakes occur on the hands and fingers when they are picked up and handled. Remember this little jingle: “Red on yellow kill a fellow, red on black venom lack”. This jingle reminds you that there is a King snake (non poisonous and beneficial) that resembles the Coral snake and that the red band does not touch the yellow band.

Snake bites should always be taken seriously. If unsure of a snake bite, call local poison control authorities or go to the nearest emergency department. Do not bring a live snake to the emergency department for identification.

What to do if Bitten

1. Remove any jewelry such as rings, watches, and bracelets, as swelling can progress rapidly.

2. Immobilize and keep the stricken extremity below the level of the heart.

3. Get to a hospital as soon as possible.

4. Lie down and try and relax. If it is someone else, have them lie down and talk to them in order to keep them calm. Remind them that more people die of wasp stings than snake bites.

What not to Do

1. Do not cut into the bite, by doing this you will most likely help the venom to spread.

2. Do not suck on the bite, open wounds in the mouth will expose you to the venom and then the Emergency Department will have two victims.

3. Do not apply a tourniquet to the extremity.

4. Do not apply ice or heat to the bite.

5. Do not apply any topical substance to the bite.

How to Avoid Snake Bites

1. Do not play with snakes, handle them or try to kill them. These are the leading causes of snake bites.

2. Stay out of tall grass, look ahead and scan the path you are about to take.

3. If swimming and coming on to land look before you reach out.

4. Watch where you are placing your hands if gardening or clearing a yard of brush and debris, and wear gloves if doing so.

5. Do not step over large rocks and logs as snakes may be concealed on the other side.

6. Wear thick, leather boots in snake country.

Things to Remember

-Leave the snake alone and it will leave you alone.

-Humans kill more snakes than snakes kill humans.

-If bitten, call poison control or head to the nearest Emergency Department

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