Don’t let snakes sneak up on you

Summertime is when the majority of snake bites occur nationwide. Most of the bites occur between April and October, when outdoor activities are popular.

The most common type of venomous snake in Texas is the pit viper – a classification that includes the copperhead, cottonmouth and rattlesnake. Of those, copperheads are blamed for most bites seen in Dallas-area emergency rooms, says Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt, chief of medical toxicology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Luckily, the copperhead is the least dangerous of the pit vipers because its bite primarily causes only pain and swelling. Most copperhead bites do not need antivenin therapy.

Snakes will strike when threatened or surprised, but most will usually avoid people. If you are moving through tall grass or weeds, poke at the ground in front of you with a long stick to scare away snakes. Watch where you step and where you sit outdoors, and wear boots and long pants.

“If bitten, the most important thing to remember is to seek immediate medical attention at your local emergency room,” Dr. Kleinschmidt says. Dr. Kleinschmidt suggests following these first aid rules before you reach the ER:

• Stay calm.

• If you see the snake, try to remember what it looks like or take a photo with your cellphone. Don’t try to catch the reptile; it could bite again.  

• Quickly remove any jewelry or tight clothing near the bite, before swelling starts.

• Wash the area with soap and water if possible.

• Do not make cuts over the snake bite or apply a tourniquet or constricting device.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/emergency to learn more about clinical services for emergency medicine at UT Southwestern.

Media Contact: Russell Rian

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