Do You Know What to Do in a Snakebite Emergency?

Do You Know What to Do in a Snakebite Emergency?

It’s another warm, wet spring in North Texas, and you know what that means. Wildflowers, yes. But also, snakes. The recent storms have stirred them up and the forecast calls for more severe weather. It’s time to hone your reptile radar so that you can protect your family and pets from getting a snakebite.

Linda Gosselin, RN, a trauma services nurse for Medical City Healthcare, has expert advice about when to go the emergency room if a snakebite does occur.

“Time is critical when dealing with snakebites, because the poison can travel fast, begin to affect underlying tissue and cause permanent damage,” Nurse Gosselin said. “We recommend that you seek immediate medical help from a full-service emergency room for all suspected snakebites. This will allow us to determine the extent of the injury and begin immediate treatment.”

Snakebites require full-service emergency care.

Medical City Lewisville’s Emergency Medical Director, James Doyle, MD, agreed that your first action should be to get full-service emergency care for a snakebite.

“The reason that it’s important to go to a full-service emergency room as soon as possible after a snakebite is because they can produce an array of symptoms, including pain and swelling, nausea, convulsions and even paralysis,” he said. “Quick treatment is essential for the best outcome.”

Nurse Gosselin specifies a “full-service ER” because it is going to have the expertise and supplies needed to treat snakebites, including the right antivenin for area snakes.

Elizabeth Kim, MD, Medical City Lewisville Trauma Medical Director, explained, “Our emergency departments have the staff, training, supplies and equipment, as well as the policies and procedures to care for trauma patients.”

Medical City Lewisville last summer treated Lane Smith, an 18-year-old high school student who was bitten by a copperhead snake while playing the wildly popular Pokémon Go smartphone game. Arriving first at Medical City ER Flower Mound with his parents, he was stabilized and transported to Medical City Lewisville for further observation and treatment.

Top tips for snakebite prevention.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services offers this advice for preventing snakebites:

  • Even if you don’t think a snake is poisonous, don’t attempt to handle or play with it unless you have the proper training
  • Keep your yard or campsite well-manicured; snakes love to hide in brush, inside logs or pipes and under rocks and leaves
  • Wear appropriate clothing, including long pants and boots, in areas where snakes may inhabit
  • Watch where you step and place your hands when outside; most snakebites happen because people accidentally get too close to or step on a snake

Never try to suck the venom out of a snakebite and other helpful tips.

Dr. Jason West, a trauma surgeon at Medical City Denton, explains why it’s a bad idea to try to suck the venom out of a snakebite, cut the venom out or do other things to try to treat the bite yourself.

Medical City ER at Grand Prairie’s Emergency Medical Director, Trent Boyko, offers additional tips for handling snakebites after treating a patient and sending him to Medical Center of Arlington for overnight observation.

If you or a family member is bitten by a snake, dog or stinging insect, one of our many Medical City ER locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

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Revised 10/24/2017

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