Warmer Months Means Snake Watch

REDLANDS, Calif.-- As the weather warms up, camping and hiking trips become a regular daytime activity; more and more people are falling victim to snakebites. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 7,000 to 8,000 venomous snakebites are recorded each year in the U.S. The majority of the victims is comprised of boys and men ages 15 to 30, and they suffer from bites mostly on the lower arm, most likely due to handling a snake, says Phong Nguyen M.D., Director of Emergency Services at Redlands Community Hospital.

“Bites resulting from such situations are deemed ‘illegitimate’—a term used when bites are occurred after handling or trying to pick up a snake, and make up approximately 40 percent of total snakebite cases,” said Nguyen. “Snakebites that are considered to be ‘legitimate’—snakes bites that occur quickly and unexpectedly, are mostly found on the lower leg or ankles.”

Although the death rate is less than 1%, death is a serious possibility if bites are not given proper medical attention.

Prevention is the best method. Snakebites may be easily avoided:

  • If you see a snake, back away slowly

  • Do not try to handle or kill a snake

  • Never touch a snake you think is dead; snakes can still inject venom for up to an hour after dying

  • Avoid areas where snakes tend to hide, such as under rocks, logs, and in water

  • Remember that snakes are more active during the night and in warm weather

  • Use a long stick to tap the path in areas where it is hard to see your feet

  • Wear long pants and leather boots when hiking

Dr. Nguyen gives the following advice to treat a snakebite:

  • Call 911 and get air transport as soon as possible. Also call the emergency room so that an anti-venom is ready upon arrival.

  • Remove any rings, watches or bracelets before swelling begins

  • Restrict movement and keep affected area below the heart to reduce the flow of venom

  • Do NOT cut across fang marks, suck out the venom, take aspirin or ibuprofen, apply electric shock or ice, or use a tourniquet

Dr. Nguyen adds, “Snakebite victims should watch for unusual bleeding, such as bleeding gums or bruising easily. They should return to the emergency room immediately if any unusual bleeding develops. Also, they should watch for signs of allergy to anti-venom, such as an itchy rash, fever, swollen lymph nodes or painful joints.”

Hikers and campers should be aware of the six species of rattlesnakes that inhabit the Inland Empire; types of rattlesnakes to look out for include the Red diamond, western diamondback, southern pacific, speckled, sidewinder and Mojaves snakes that roam about San Bernadino County’s sloping terrain. The Mojave is especially dangerous because its venom is neuro-toxic, meaning that a bite from this particular snake can result in paralysis and impaired breathing.

For more information about Redlands Community Hospital please visit redlandshospital.org.

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