Copperheads and other snakes are making their presence known in north Texas.
“We haven’t seen a huge uptick,” said Suart Smith, a certified emergency nurse who works in the ER at North Texas Medical Center (NTMC). “However, there has been an uptick in North Texas for copperhead bites.”
In educating people on how to avoid being bit by copperheads and other snakes, recognizing where snakes tend to hide and why they hide is highly emphasized.
“We’re not the only ones looking for a cool place to hang out,” explained Smith. “A lot of places that you’ll find snakes, since they’re exothermic, which means that they can’t regulate their own body temperature, so a lot of times you’ll find them under brush piles, under rocks, under sheds and those kinds of places where they can keep cool.”
Knowing where they tend to hide, people are encouraged to try to remove these and other places where snakes can hide.
“It’s a good idea to continuously mow your property and keep tall grasses down, and remove any rock piles, brush piles and junk piles where they can hide, and reduce the rodents as much as possible so that they don’t have as much food to draw them in,” said Tanah Lowe, who works for Texas A&M Agrilife Extension in Cooke County as the Cooke County Agriculture and Natural Resources extension agent. “If they have no food and no place to hide, you’re less likely to see them.”
If someone does see a snake, the first thing they are advised to do is to go the other direction and leave it alone, as they often do not bite unless provoked. However, if someone is bitten, they are told to stay calm and seek medical attention immediately.
“First and foremost, remain calm. If your heart races, you’re going to expedite the progression of the venom,” explained Smith. “You want to get someone else to drive you to the emergency department.”
While traveling to the ER, there are a few things advised to help the treatment go more quickly and smoothly.
“It’s a good idea to remove things like jewelry, rings, tight fitting clothing and those types of things because, depending on where you are bitten, that part of your body might swell,” explained Smith. “If you have your phone with you and can, you can take a picture of the snake, which helps us here in the ER identify the snake. We absolutely do not want you putting that snake in a bucket and bringing it to the ER, which I have seen before in the past.”
“We also want to make sure that you are washing the area, if you have the capability, with soap and water,” added Sarah Clure, a registered nurse at NTMC. “If you are bitten on a limb, like on your arm or hand, you want to keep that extremity at heart level or below.”
“Another thing you can do is outlining the bite or wherever it is,” said Smith. “Because once you get to the emergency room, we can see the progression of the redness, or the five-dollar-word: erythema, to see if the redness starts to spread outside of those boundaries.”
Professionals at NTMC also advise that you wait and let the hospital give medication rather than handling it themselves.
“Once you get to the emergency department here at NTMC, we have an anti-venom medicine that neutralizes the bite and it is an immunization,” explained Smith. “But, people have some misconceptions and do some things that are wrong.”
“You don’t want to apply ice to the area,” Clure elaborated. “You don’t suck on the wound like you see a lot of movies demonstrating, where somebody places their mouth over the wound and sucks out the venom and spits it out; we highly advise not to do that.
“Do not take Motrin or over-the-counter NSAIDs prior to coming in,” continued Clure. “And do not use tourniquets to tighten the vital blood flow to the extremities.”
“You’ll also see Walmart and other places selling snake bite kits that look like a syringe with a suction on it. Those are not proven to be beneficial in any shape, form or fashion,” added Smith. “It’s more of a novelty item than anything else.”
Those who are interested in learning more about types of snakes in the area, how to identify them and if they are venomous or not can visit www.texassnakeid.com, or they can join the partnering Facebook Group: ‘What kind of snake is this? North Texas Educational Group,’ where Nature’s Edge Wildlife and Reptile Rescue helps people identify the various snakes of the area.