Beware of Snakes & Know What To Do If Bitten
June 6, 2019
Southern Torch (3696 articles)
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Beware of Snakes & Know What To Do If Bitten

By B.A. Little, Account Executive

DeKALB COUNTY, Ala. — Due to the recent death of an Alabama man from a copperhead snake bite, and other reported incidents lately, people are being warned to watch closely while outside. In these hot and humid conditions, snakes are looking for shade, water, and food. Doctors, paramedics, and rescues crews are sending out a warning as temperatures are on the increase: beware of snakes and know what do to if bitten.

While over 40 species of snakes can be found in Alabama, only six are venomous. The copperhead is one of those six venomous snakes that make Alabama their home.  The others are: Cottonmouth, Timber Rattlesnake, Pygmy Rattlesnake, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and Eastern Coral snake. 

However, even non-venomous snakes can still pose a health risk to people. According to the Auburn Extension Service, “While they do not have venom, a bite from a nonvenomous snake can cause infections. If left untreated, these infections could cause serious health problems.”

Local physician Dr. Mandi Allen-Bell offers this medical advice, “If you are bitten, try to remain calm. Try to remember what the snake looks like, specifically shape of the head ( round- non poisonous vs triangular -poisonous) – don’t attempt to catch or kill the snake. Remove jewelry or tight clothing near the bite as severe swelling may occur. Lift the bitten extremity to heart level. Clean the wound in the direction away from the wound. Do not bleed the wound, attempt to suck venom from the wound or ice the wound. Always seek medical attention as venomous bites can be fatal.” 

In talking with Dr. Jim Armstrong, Professor of Forestry, Wildlife, and Natural Resources and snake identification specialist, “Deaths from a venomous snake bite are rare in Alabama, but the possibility is there, and folks should certainly be aware of that possibility.

 “Overall, most snakes, regardless of species, are not aggressive. However, any snake, venomous or not, may be aggressive if cornered or picked up,” Armstrong said. “Some species tend to bite more readily than others, but there is great variation even within a species.”

Armstrong adds that while nothing will guarantee that you never meet a snake, there are some things that can be done to reduce the chances of a snake around your home. Some snakes, such as the venomous copperhead and rattlesnakes, will be found among old rocks or woodpiles, using them as shelter and feeding areas. However, snakes can be found in some very unusual places.

Dr. Bell agreed and added, “Best medicine is prevention…. avoid high risk areas like tall grass, brush, rocky areas, fallen logs, bluffs, swamps, marshes, deep holes in the ground. If you must be in those areas, use a long stick to poke the ground in front to scare snakes away. Wear thick boots in those areas, always watch your step and don’t handle even recently killed snakes as they can still have a bite reflex.”

Southern Torch

Southern Torch

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