There have been several posts on social media this summer about people in the region being bitten by poisonous snakes.
Pictures have also been posted where persons have killed either copperheads or rattlesnakes, the only two types of poisonous reptiles in our neck of the woods.
A check with some local hospitals about whether they have had to treat more people for snake bites this summer than usual turned up some information.
A spokesperson for Williamson Memorial Hospital in Williamson, West Virginia stated they have not had an increase in snake bites in the emergency room this summer. Those types of cases have been normal.
A spokesman for the Tug Valley Appalachian Regional Hospital in South Williamson, Kentucky stated that they have not had an increase or above average cases of snake bites. Although they have treated a couple of cases.
Brandi Davis, Trauma Coordinator at Logan Regional Medical Center, said that at her facility it has been an “average year” for treating people with snake bites.
She said just because someone has been bitten, doesn’t always mean they may need the anti-venom. It depends on how much venom a person has taken in from the snakebite.
Jackie Caudill, Trauma Outreach Coordinator for Pikeville Medical Center, agreed with those from other area hospitals. “I review all of the reports and from my standpoint, I have not seen an increase in snake bites.”
Caudill attributed the above average rainfall so far this summer for persons seeing more snakes in residential areas, however he said that doesn’t necessarily mean that more people have been bitten.
Experts do advise persons who are working outdoors, camping or going into forested areas to always use caution and watch out for snakes. Snakes bite both as a method of hunting and as a means of protection.
Snakes are most likely to bite when they feel threatened, are startled, are provoked, or when they have been cornered. Snakes are likely to approach residential areas when attracted by prey, such as rodents
One myth is that snakes go blind during dog days, which is usually in the hot, humid days of August.
Snakes must shed their skin in order to grow. To help the old skin slide off, a gray-white lubricant is secreted under the old skin. This liquid is visible under the clear scale that protects the eye, making it look clouded over. This does, in fact, impair a snake’s vision. Although snakes are not known to shed any more in August than in any other summer month, shedding blindness is the probable origin of this myth.
Another myth about rattlesnakes is that they always add one rattle a year.
The truth is a rattlesnake adds one rattle every time it sheds its skin. Snakes may shed several times in the course of a year, each time adding a new rattle. Rattles also may break off. Determining a snake’s age by counting rattles usually results in an inaccurate estimate of the snake’s age.
There are also some myths about treating someone that has been bitten by a poisonous snake that are important.
You may have seen the old western movie where a cowboy is bitten and his partner ties a tourniquet above the bite, takes a knife out and cuts the wound and then sucks out the poison. This is an old myth and should not be tried by anyone. In fact, it would be dangerous to the person who is putting their mouth around the bite.
Here is what experts say about treating a snake bite.
If you know the snake is not venomous, treat as a puncture wound.
1. Note the Snake’s Appearance
• Be ready to describe the snake to emergency staff.
2. Protect the Person
While waiting for medical help:
• Move the person beyond striking distance of the snake.
• Have the person lie down with wound below the heart.
• Keep the person still to keep venom from spreading.
• Cover the wound with loose, sterile bandage.
• Cut a bite wound
• Attempt to suck out venom
• Apply tourniquet, ice, or water
• Give the person alcohol or caffeinated drinks
3. Follow Up
If you treat the bite at home:
• Contact a health care provider. The person may need a tetanus shot. Tetanus boosters should be given every 10 years.
At the hospital, treatment will depend on the type of snake.
• If the snake was venomous, the person will be given anti-venom treatment.
• A tetanus shot may be given, depending on date of last injection.
(WebMD Medical Reference used for this article.)
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)