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It’s the time of year where there’s a ssssssspike in snake bites.
WakeMed emergency departments typically treat approximately 100 snakebites per year. Of these, 60 percent are venomous. The other 40 percent are “dry bites” (no venom injected), or they are from harmless snakes.
So far, this year, WakeMed has seen over 20 snake bites, which is about double the number we saw during the same period in 2016. This is likely due to a milder winter and a warmer early Spring. Snakes have become active earlier this year, just as people are enjoying the pleasant outdoor conditions.
The following are the most common types of snakes found in our area. We’ve included some helpful bullet points about each one below.
#1 – Copperhead Snakes
#2 – Rattlesnakes
#3 – Cottonmouth Snakes (aka: Water Moccasin)
#4 – Coral Snakes
Seek prompt medical attention if you think the snake might be venomous.
If you think you may have been bitten by a venomous snake, or if there is any uncertainty, don’t delay.
While waiting, clean the area with basic soap and water. Avoid doing any suction, cutting or tourniquet tricks. Keep the bite victim calm and still (minimize movement of their extremities). Reassure them that it’s treatable and almost never fatal.
Snake bites can be more severe for kids because kids are smaller, and it’s the same amount of venom. Some kids will pick snakes up out of curiosity, and that’s a common scenario for a bite.
Frequently, snake bites happen when people don’t watch where they are putting their hands or feet. Snakes tend to be nocturnal, so many bites happen at dusk when people are taking out trash in bare feet or cleaning up landscaping debris.
The following are some tips to help you avoid getting bitten by snakes:
*Even when a snake’s head is severed from its body, it can still bite for an hour or more.
Contrary to what you may have heard, snakes don’t go out of their way to bite you, and they don’t chase you. If a snake bites someone, it’s a last resort because they feel threatened, startled, or scared. If you spot a snake, walk away. Even the ones that can move quickly aren’t going to outpace a person who purposefully walks away.
Finally, fewer than 5 people in the United States actually die from snakebites. Typically, a death from a snake bite is the result of someone who didn’t seek quick medical treatment or had some other unusual circumstance.
Perhaps the best thing you can do to keep snakes away from your home is keep your grass and shrubs well trimmed. Keep your yard free of places for snakes to hide. This includes (but is not limited to):
Snake repellents, such as moth balls, can be toxic to humans and pets.
Dr. Benjamin German is an emergency physician with Wake Emergency Physicians and a snake enthusiast/venom specialist.
3000 New Bern Ave.
Raleigh, NC 27610