Getting bit by a snake isn’t that uncommon – more than 8,000 people are treated for snakebites every year in the United States. South Texas is prime breeding ground for rattlesnakes.
“Snakebite season is all year round in South Texas because of the warmer climate. We have not had a winter the past few years, that is why we have seen an increase in rattlesnakes, and people getting bit,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center Trauma Program Manager Jennifer Carr.
What concerns many people is what to do if they are bitten. Do they drive straight to the emergency room or make a 911 call.
“They need to get to the closest emergency room. I would recommend calling 911, and definitely not driving themselves. While waiting, they need to remove rings, watches, around the bite site. Elevate the area that has been bit below the level of the heart though,” said Carr.
Corpus Christi Medical Center Trauma Program Manager Jennifer Carr also warns: don’t try to make the situation better after a bite by trying some of those old school remedies.
“No snakebite kits, no sucking, no cutting, no ice, none of those myths are proven effective,” said Carr.
Most large hospitals have anti-venom stocked and ready to go. Last year, rattlesnakes struck more than 200 times statewide.
“Our ER has seen about 12 cases this year of people that have been bitten by a rattlesnake. The anti-venom is called CroFab, and it is the only anti-venom made in the United States to treat pit viper snakebites; which is the rattlesnake, copperhead, and the cottonmouth,”
Anti-venom can save your life, but it doesn’t come cheap. Each vial costs about $2,500, and treatment requires a few vials on average.
“Just like a lot of life-saving medication, there is a cost associated. Your physician will talk with you about the risk and benefits, and if it is necessary to get the treatments,” said Carr.
It is not uncommon for medical bills to total $50,000 or more after a rattlesnake bite.
Symptoms of Envenomization by Snakes
There are many biological and environmental factors that determine the quantity and toxicity of an individuals snake's venom. People also react differently (immunologically) to snake venom. It is difficult to identify a set of standard symptoms for snake bite victims because of these variations. Listed below are some symptoms that many victims of snake bites share, but remember that not every victim will have all of these symptoms.
Common Symptoms of Snake Bite
· blurred vision
· excessive sweating
· fang marks
· increased salivation
· localized pain and burning
· muscle contractions
· muscle incoordination
· nausea and vomiting
· numbness and tingling
· rapid pulse rate
· skin discoloration
· swelling in the bite area
· tissue death
First Aid for Snake Bite Victims
If someone has been bitten by a venomous snake, it is important to seek medical attention promptly.
Call 9-1-1 or the Texas Poison Center Network at 1-800-222-1222 for information about which medical centers in your area have the appropriate anti-venom.
If possible call ahead to the medical center so the anti-venom can be ready when the victim arrives.
It is also important to identify the kind of snake that bit the victim.
Even taking a dead snake with you to the medical center is appropriate if it can be done without further risk or injury. Extreme caution should be used when bringing in a snake because even though the snake may be dead, its reflexes may still allow the snake to bite.
What to do for snake bite victims.
· Move the victim safely away from the snake. If you see the snake, try to remember what it looks like or take a digital picture of it if you can do so without putting yourself at risk. This will aid the doctor in determining which anti-venom is needed.
· Do not attempt to capture the snake; however if the snake is dead, place it in a suitable container and bring it with you to the hospital for identification. Be careful to avoid contact with the dead snake′s head however, as it may be able to bite reflexively for a short time after death.
· Keep the victim, and yourself, calm.
· Remove jewelry or constricting clothing from the victim quickly, before any swelling begins.
· Lift the bitten limb so that it is level with the heart. Raising it above heart level could hasten distribution of the venom to other parts of the body. Holding the limb below heart level could lead to increased swelling of the affected limb.
· Limit movement of the bitten limb and avoid any unnecessary exertion by bringing transport to the victim, if possible.
· Gently wash the bite wound with soap and water, if available.
· Call 911 if available and seek medical attention immediately. If you are transporting the victim to a hospital, call ahead so that the medical staff can prepare the anti-venom for administration upon arrival.
What NOT to do for Snake Bite Victims
· Do not attempt to suck venom from the bite wound.
· Do not make cuts over the snake bite. This often leads to more tissue trauma and damage.
· Do not apply a tourniquet or other constricting device.
· Do not apply a cold pack or ice to the snake bite.
· Do not apply an electrical shock to the snake bite.
· Do not take pain reliever or other medications unless instructed to do so by a physician.
· Do not drink alcoholic beverages.
· Do not administer anti-venom in the field. Treatment for snake bites is best conducted in an appropriate medical facility.
Snake Bite Prevention
· Although most snakes in Texas are not venomous, avoid handling or playing with snakes unless you have been properly trained.
· Keep landscape or campsite well manicured.
· Wear long pants and boots when in areas known to have snakes.
· Watch where you step and place your hands when outdoors. Do not place them in areas where snakes may be resting unless you can see it is safe.
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