• May 26, 2020

STONE: Watch out for snakes - Odessa American: Levi Stone

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STONE: Watch out for snakes

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Posted: Sunday, April 5, 2020 4:30 am

Spring is here, meaning trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and dormant grass begins to green. The warmer weather is also drawing animals of all kinds out of their winter slumber, including snakes.

According to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Texas is home to over 105 species of snakes, with only 15 species that are potentially dangerous to humans. Among them, rattlesnakes are the most likely of these dangerous species West Texans may encounter. Indigenous to this area, they can exhibit aggressive behaviors, especially when provoked. Anticipating encounters can keep you alert and proactive in avoiding injuries associated with snakebites.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports about 7,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year. Although most snakebites will not prove fatal, death can result, with approximately 1 out every 500 venomous snakebites resulting in fatalities.

Texas sees an average of 1 to 2 deaths from venomous snakebites annually. Snakebite symptoms may differ based factors such as the type of venom, amount injected from the bite, and the body’s biological reaction of its response to venom. Although not all symptoms may be experienced, here is a list of common symptoms resulting from venomous snakebites:

  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Numbness/tingling.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Increased salivation.
  • Loss of muscle coordination/muscle contractions.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Localized pain/burning/swelling.
  • Tissue death.

If bitten, assume envenomation has occurred and use these proper treatment and management guidelines as you seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible:

  • Keeping the victim as calm as possible, restricting any unnecessary movement and keeping the affected area below the level of the heart to reduce the flow of venom.
  • Call 9-1-1 and/or the Emergency Department, ahead of arrival, to prepare for antivenin treatment if necessary.
  • Remove jewelry, such as rings and bracelets, to avoid constriction that can result from swelling.
  • If possible and at a safe distance, take a photograph of the snake responsible for the bite (this will help physicians/medical professionals to properly identify and implement the proper course of treatment based on the snake involved)

What NOT to do:

  • Do not make incisions or cuts or the bite marks. This can actually cause more venom to enter the bloodstream and surrounding tissues as well as increase the risk of infection.
  • Do not suck or vacuum out the venom (there is not enough evidence to support the efficacy of this treatment).
  • Do not drink alcohol since it can dilate the blood vessels and allow venom to spread more quickly.
  • Do not use aspirin or other type of over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (commonly known as NSAIDs), as these medications can increase bleeding.
  • Do not use tourniquets or cold compresses. Each of these techniques can increase the pain associated from the bite, or worse, can cause necrosis (death of the tissues) at and near the area of the bite.

Medical treatment, especially antivenin, can be very, very expensive. The most common antivenin, CroFab, runs upwards of around $1,500 per vial with a single snakebite requiring anywhere from four to 40 vials for treatment.

Do the math and one can ascertain that, obviously, prevention is key to avoid snakebites altogether.

When outdoors make sure to avoid areas that snakes tend to favor such as under rocks, woodpiles, and brush. Keep yards, sheds, and other structures clean and kept.

Tap ahead of you, with a walking stick, in areas that you cannot see your feet (snakes will usually leave if you give them ample enough warning).

Wear long pants and boots, especially in areas where snakes are known to be. Finally, if you see a snake, slowly back away and do not provoke it. There’s a reason why the phrase “you play with snakes, you’re going to get bit” was coined. Anticipate encounters, stay alert, and steer clear are your best bets in keeping you and your family safe from snakebites during this time of year.

Odessa, TX

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