Springtime means the beginning of snake season. With such a nice wildflower season this year, it’s especially important to be mindful of snakes.
Dr. Andrew Potter, M.D., Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. David’s Georgetown says the emergency department is well prepared with anti-venom in stock.
“A mild winter means young snakes have a better survival rate and an abundant food supply so the population grows. Our peak season is usually now through July and we expect to see as many as three cases weekly.”
Dr. Potter says the hospital administers a synthetic antibody that diminishes damage caused to skin and tissue. “It is a simple therapy but the patient must have it. About half of the bites we see are ‘dry’, which means the snake broke skin but did not release venom. But no matter what, any bite should be seen by a doctor since consequences can be grave. A bite is never a wait-and-see occurrence.”
Dr. Potter says the key is to remain calm and get to a hospital quickly. The sooner the better since the longer a patient goes without treatment, the more damage may be caused to skin,circulation and tissue.
He cautions against urban myths about snakebite first aid. “There is no way to suck poison out of the blood stream and cuts only make the injury worse. Squeezing or tourniquets can cause a cascade effect and the body may have complications as a result. Basically, get the person to treatment quickly and, if possible, keep the bite at heart level to prevent spreading or swelling. Ice, alcohol or pain relievers may make it worse.”