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Here’s what to do if you encounter a snake, or are bitten by one, this summer.

Published Jun 14th, 2022

Snakes are most active in the summer in Alabama, and snake bites are commonly treated in the emergency department this time of year. Walker Plash, M.D., an emergency medicine physician with USA Health and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Frederick P. Whiddon College of Medicine, shares some ways to avoid bites if you encounter a snake, and what you should and shouldn’t do if you are bitten.

Where are snakes usually found?

Snakes particularly like tall grass and thick underbrush, and hide under rocks and fallen branches.

How do you tell if a snake is venomous?

There are lots of ways to tell if a snake is venomous, but they all require getting relatively close. It’s safest to treat all snakes as if they are venomous.

What are the best ways to avoid getting bitten?

  • The best way to avoid getting bitten is to avoid the snake.
  • Make noise.
  • Step on rocks and branches, not over. Snakes hide behind these to attack prey.
  • Don’t put your hands where you can’t see.
  • Allow the snake to leave; don’t be the one to leave.
  • Make slow movements. Quick ones can be mistaken for attacks.
  • Don’t pick up the snake, even if it’s dead. Snakes retain their bite reflex up to one hour after death.

If you do get bitten, what are some things you should and shouldn't do?

  • None of the folk treatments for snake bite work. Don’t cut an X, suck out the venom or use a tourniquet.
  • Do remove any jewelry or constricting items from the bitten extremity.
  • Try not to use the injured extremity. You can use a sling or splint and keep the injured extremity around the level of the heart.

What is the treatment for a venomous snake bite?

The only treatment is antivenom. If you are bitten by a snake, go to the hospital. Bring a picture of the snake, if possible. Don’t bring the alive snake!

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