Snakes Alive! Summer Season Poison Prevention

If you’re spending much time outdoors these days, there are 2 types of potential poison exposure you should be especially mindful of — venomous snakes and poisonous wild plants.

The activity level of the 37 species of snakes in North Carolina is greatest in the spring and early summer. 5 venomous snakes are responsible for virtually all of the snake bite poisonings in the state. They include Copperheads, Cottonmouths (also known as Water Moccasins), and 3 types of Rattlesnakes — Eastern Diamondbacks, Timbers and Pigmys.

Copperheads, pictured above, are the most common and are responsible for nearly 10 times as many bites as all other North Carolina snakes combined. Adults generally reach 3 feet in length and their favorite form of defense is camouflage in places like tall grass & weeds, woodpiles and other natural areas, so it’s always a good idea to evaluate these types of spaces carefully before blindly charging into them.

Where Copperheads are more commonly found in neighborhoods and places where people frequent across the state; Cottonmouths prefer to be near water and reside almost exclusively in the eastern part of the state. Rattlesnakes’ bites are usually more dangerous than the other breeds. Although their habitat extends across the state, they are more likely to be found in natural settings, than near people.

If you or someone nearby is bitten by a poisonous snake, the NC Poison Center recommends these steps.

If the bite victim is swelling, having breathing trouble or chest pains, or anything out of the ordinary, call 911 immediately. In less severe cases …

1) Sit down and relax as best you can.
2) If possible, try to wash the bitten area with warm soapy water.
3) Remove any tight clothing, jewelry or other items that may restrict circulation.
4) Try not to disturb the bitten area by cutting the area, using a tourniquet, applying ice or trying to suck out the venom.
5) Try to elevate the bitten area to your heart level.
6) Call the NC Poison Control for more advice at 1-800-222-1222.

Next week we’ll discuss effective ways to avoid and to treat poisonous wild plant exposures.  Until then, be careful out there!

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