Careful where you step

June 18, 2010

North Texas is home to more snakes than usual this year. Take these precautions to avoid bites.

Rainy weather in North Texas at just the right times has made for the perfect environment for slithery creatures. If you’re heading outdoors, be careful where you step, because this year the region is home to dozens of venomous and hundreds of non-venomous snake species.

Snake bites can be serious and require immediate attention. Thanks to modern medicine, deaths from snakebites are increasingly rare. Still, if the bite is from a venomous snake, it is important to seek medical care promptly.

Most snakes will not intentionally attack people. Bites tend to happen when a person accidentally steps on or tries to get a closer look at a snake. If your child spots a snake, the best thing to do is tell him or her to leave it alone.

Also, teach your child to be aware of his or her surroundings and to know the common places snakes tend to be: in landscaped grasses or flower beds, under decks, among stacked firewood and under rocks.

Prevention Tips

The best way to treat a snake bite is to prevent it. Help your child avoid bites by teaching him these do’s and don’ts:

  • Become familiar with the types of snakes in the area, and be able to identify poisonous and non-poisonous species.
  • Don’t stick your hands or feet into places you can't see, such as holes, crevices or deserted buildings.
  • Wear long pants and boots when walking in areas where snakes may be.
  • If you see a snake, leave it alone.

If your child is bitten, take these steps:

  • Always seek immediate medical attention.
  • Move your child safely away from the snake.
  • Try to keep your child and yourself calm.
  • Identify the type of snake that bit the victim. If possible, take a digital photo of the snake. An effective antivenom is available for rattlesnake, cottonmouth and copperhead bites; however, it is not needed in all cases. Discuss the risks and benefits with the treating physician.
  • Do not try to capture the snake. If the snake is dead, take it with you to the hospital so doctors can identify the species and use the proper antivenom. Be careful when transporting a dead snake because its reflexes can cause it to bite for several minutes after it has died.
  • Remove any jewelry or constricting clothing before swelling begins.
  • Keep the bitten limb level with the heart.

Identifying venomous snakes in Texas

  • In Texas, there are two types of venomous snakes: pit vipers and coral snakes.
  • Pit vipers include the copperhead, cottonmouth (water moccasin) and rattlesnake.
  • Pit vipers have a heat-sensitive “pit” on each side of their face.
  • Pit vipers have a vertically elliptical pupil and a single row of scales under their tail.
  • Coral snakes have red, yellow and black bands. The Texas coral snake is the only snake in Texas that has touching red and yellow bands.
  • Coral snakes have a permanently exposed fang on the each side of their upper jaw.
  • With coral snake bites, muscular paralysis may be delayed, therefore, seek immediate medical attention for all coral snake bites, even if the child appears well in the first few hours after the bite.