Snake Bite Season

Published: Mar. 16, 2015 at 11:24 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2015 at 11:31 PM CDT
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Every year, dozens of people are rushed to United Regional for venomous snake bites. As the weather begins warming up, more snakes will be coming out.

"We have the biggest collection of venomous bites in the literature right now because it's very common in this part of Texas," said Doctor Anne Rizzo, a trauma surgeon at United Regional.

Last year, the United Regional emergency room saw 15 to 25 venomous bite victims.

"People think 'oh it's just a little snake, it doesn't matter if it's a little baby snake,' but if it gives you all of the venom that it's got ever since it was a baby then you might as well have gotten bit by a big snake," said Dr. Rizzo.

That's what happened to Peyton Hood. She was almost 2-years-old when she was bitten and killed by a venomous snake five years ago. She was playing on a playground in front of her lake cabin near Possum Kingdom.

"She was stepping down the rungs of the ladder and stepped on a baby diamondback rattlesnake," said Tammy Reece, aunt of Peyton Hood and Executive Director of Peyton's Project.

The venom went straight into her main artery, then to her heart.

"Parents always teach their kids 'don't put your hands and feet in places you can't see,' this was not one of those places," said Reece.

Reece said snakes can be found all over the place, and people need to be educated of what to look for. But it's not only the venomous snakes you should be aware of. Many non-venomous snakes mimic venomous ones, and it's hard to spot the differences. 

"As far as venomous snakes are concerned, they are big, chunky bodied, they usually have large poofy cheeks," said Jennica Lambert from River Bend Nature Center.

Lambert said snakes are generally good and usually won't attack. Lambert said it's important to know your surroundings. If you see a snake, don't bother it, go in the opposite direction.

If a snake bites you, it's important to head straight to a medical professional. There are ways to prevent a snake bite, and most of the time, what it really comes down to, is being aware of your surroundings.

The most common cause of a snake bite is by stepping on snake you may not see, or attempting to reach down and grab a snake.  If you see a snake, the best thing for you to do is go in the opposite direction.

"You never pick up a snake," said Dr. Rizzo. "I don't care if you've chopped it in 7 million pieces. You do not pick it up because they can still reflexively bite after they're dead for a long time."

It's also important to keep your grass and vegetation short, and use a shovel, or stick to reach areas you may not be able to see. That's especially true if you're out walking a trail, or hiking.

You also want to make sure your immunizations are up to date. If you are bitten, and your immunizations are not current it could be more painful, and would require additional medication.

Despite myths, if you are bitten by a venomous snake you do not want to try and suck the venom out. Experts said that it wouldn't actually work. Venom travels through your blood in the time it takes your heart to beat once.

Venomous snake bites can not only be deadly, but also very costly. Anti-venom used to treat those bites cost around $2,500 for one vial of treatment. Dr. Rizzo said it could end up costing anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000 for treatment.

Doctor Rizzo said men are more likely to be bitten by a snake. It's more common for men to be bitten in the hand, and women are more likely to be bitten around the feet or ankle. If you are bitten by a snake you believe is non-venomous, you should still consult with a health care professional.

Brittany Costello, Newschannel 6