By JESSIE HORTON
ERATH COUNTY (January 28, 2015) — It’s something we all fear, but rarely consider – a rattlesnake bite. But it happens, way more than you think, especially in Texas on days like this. According to local officials with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, snake bites in Texas are on the rise, just not in humans.
Erath County vets are recommending pet owners who have animals that are at risk of being bitten, get the anti-venom booster shots. If those pets with the booster are bit, owners will have more time to get them to a clinic and to safety.
But those pets aren’t the only ones who need to be worried. According to local health officials, approximately 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States annually, a large number of those in the southern part of the county. And with Texas leading the nation in the number of snake bites, health and wildlife officials are urging everyone to be prepared and have a plan if someone is bitten.
“While we do hear more about dogs and other animals getting bit by rattlesnakes, humans do get bit as well, especially in weather like we’ve been having,” said Department of State Health Services representative, Case Johnson. “In fact, Erath County has already had one person bit this year.”
Have A Plan In Place:
The most important thing a family can do is to have a plan in place prior to any emergency. This will keep family members from panicking and will most likely result in quicker treatment as the family will be able to jump right into action. Some important things for families to do ahead of time include:
- Know which hospitals are closest to you and the route you will take to get there in case of an emergency.
- Make sure to have a list of those hospitals that carry anti-venom.
- Never be scared to ask for a second opinion from someone who is familiar with the current snakebite management literature.
What To Do If Bitten:
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to snake bites is the person bitten must have provoked the snake. This is not always the case. Regardless of the precautionary steps you take, sometimes bites just happen. If you or a loved one is bitten, some of the steps I recommend include:
- Call 911 immediately to be evaluated.
- Take off anything that is constricting the affected area, such as a ring or watch.
- Position the affected area at or above heart level. This means that if you are bitten on the hand, bring it to heart level, and if you’re bitten on the leg or foot, elevate it if possible. This minimizes the amount of local tissue swelling, which is the most common finding following pit viper bites.
- Go to the emergency center – the sooner the better.
The management of snake bites has changed over the years; the currently available anti-venom has been shown to be safe and effective in minimizing pain, bleeding complications, swelling and tissue damage. Although anti-venom is most effective in the first six hours after a bite, it has been found to be beneficial even a few days after the bite. At the hospital, physicians will determine if anti-venom and hospital admission are necessary. When administered correctly, anti-venom can eliminate the need for almost all surgical intervention.
If you’re uncomfortable with the proposed treatment plan, always seek a second opinion, ideally from a medical toxicologist trained in the management of envenomations.
Myths About Treating Snake Bites:
- It is not necessary to bring the snake – dead or alive – to the hospital with you. In fact, it is highly recommended you not bring it
- Do not apply a tourniquet or a constriction band.
- Do not apply ice; it can cause local tissue damage.
- Do not apply heat.
- Don’t cut the affected area and attempt to suck the venom out – this increases the amount of local tissue damage.
- Don’t use a commercially-available extraction device. These have also shown to be ineffective in removing venom and actually increase the amount of tissue damage.
- Don’t use electrical therapy.
- Don’t apply any type of lotions or ointments.
Regardless of the species of snake, all bites should be taken seriously. Even though most people who are bitten by venomous snakes have good outcomes, there is the potential for serious tissue damage and, on rare occasion, even death from every species of copperhead, cottonmouth, and rattlesnake in the United States.
- Poisonous snake bites are not easily identifiable. Most will have one or more fang marks where the venom was discharged. The victim will feel a burning pain at the site of the snake bite, there may also be a considerable amount of swelling.
- Making noise to scare snakes away won’t help, per se, since snakes don’t have external ears. However, they will feel the vibrations if you stomp on the ground – that will scare them away.
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of a snake bite. Dizziness, blurred vision, numbness and skin discoloration may develop. A rapid pulse and fever can occur. Consider you may have been bitten and get to a hospital as soon as possible.
- If you have a plastic soda bottle and a clean cloth or paper towel you can make a venom sucker by cutting the bottom of the bottle off and put the cloth or towel in the bottom of the bottle to absorb the venom as you hold it pressed over the bite and suck from the top of the bottle.
We also have just a tips and warnings story that includes a full list of hospitals in the Erath County area who have rattlesnake anti-venom on hand and fully trained staffs to handle bite victims. Check that out here.