It sounds like the makings of a creepy summer blockbuster: Venomous snake bites are on the rise in North Carolina, according to Dr. Michael Beuhler, the medical director of North Carolina Poison Control in Charlotte. His office received 62 calls related to snakebites between January and April, well above the average for that period of 37. That’s about a 67% increase, Beuhler said in a post to Atrium Health’s Daily Dose blog.
But there’s no need to panic — just to be appropriately cautious. And to be aware that snakebites can happen anywhere, not just in the wild.
“A surprising amount of bites were also found in urban areas,” Beuhler said, sometimes while people are doing yardwork or walking along their driveways.
There’s no definitive explanation for why snakebites have increased, but several factors could help explain why, Beuhler said. They include the wet winter, which kept snakes active, or an increase in the number of available food sources. Or it could simply be that more people are calling for help after a bite.
North Carolina has six types of venomous snakes: the copperhead, which is the most common here; cottonmouth (or water moccasin); and three types of rattlesnakes: eastern diamondback, pigmy and timber. There are also eastern coral snakes, which are extremely rare and reclusive.
None of these snakes go looking for trouble. They tend to strike when threatened or cornered.
“Antagonizing the snake in any way, such as picking it up or throwing something at it only increases your chances of being bitten,” Beuhler said. “Instead, leave the snake alone, stay at least 6 feet away from it, and give it some space to move.
“There’s no reason to try to kill it,” he said. “After all, the environment is still reliant upon snakes to keep rodent populations in check.”
For the most part, preventing a bite is a matter of common sense: “Basics like good footwear, a flashlight, and not putting your arms and legs in places you can’t fully see are important,” Beuhler said.
In the event of a bite, according to N.C. Poison Control, one should:
- Sit and stay calm.
- Gently wash the area with warm, soapy water.
- Remove any jewelry or tight clothing near the bite site.
- Keep the bitten area still, if possible, and raise it to heart level.
- Call Poison Control at 800-222-1222.
If a snakebite victim is having chest pain, difficulty breathing, face swelling or has lost consciousness, call 911 immediately. Keep in mind, as well, that not every snakebite, even from a venomous snake, will contain venom.
One should not:
- Cut the bitten area to try to drain the venom. This can worsen the injury.
- Ice the area. Icing causes
- tissue damage.
- Make and apply a tourniquet or any tight bandage. It’s better for the venom to flow through the body than for it to stay in one area.
- Suck or use a suction device to remove the venom.
- Attempt to catch or kill the snake.
A snakebite could put a serious damper on summer fun. But with a little caution and spatial awareness, we should all be safe.
Glass is half-full
Glass recycling is one good habit you don’t have to toss out with the trash.
Effective today, the city of Greensboro no longer will accept glass in residential recycling bins. But you still may drop off glass bottles and jars (clean and dry and with the caps removed, please) at four locations:
- Fire Station 19, 6900 Downwind Road.
- Kathleen Clay Edwards
- , 1420 Price Park Road.
- McGirt-Horton Library, 2501 Phillips Ave.
- Medford Service Center, 401 Patton Ave.
The city also is seeking to partner with faith organizations to provide additional sites.
That there is enough perceived demand in the city for the drop-off sites is encouraging.
And if you’re really serious about the environment, you can plan your drop-offs on the way to work or as you run errands to reduce gas consumption and pollution.