Medical City Healthcare - April 06, 2017

It's another wet season in North Texas and you know what that means. It's time to hone your reptile radar so that you can protect your family and pets from getting a snakebite. Also, be aware of snakes that are already dead, as in the case of a man who was bitten by the severed head of a rattlesnake.

Linda Gosselin, RN, a trauma services nurse for Medical City Healthcare, has expert advice about when to go the emergency room if a snakebite does occur.

"Time is critical when dealing with snakebites, because the poison can travel fast, begin to affect underlying tissue and cause permanent damage," Nurse Gosselin said. "We recommend that you seek immediate medical help from a full-service emergency room for all suspected snakebites. This will allow us to determine the extent of the injury and begin immediate treatment."

Snakebites require full-service emergency care.

Medical City Lewisville's Emergency Medical Director, James Doyle, MD, agreed that your first action should be to get full-service emergency care for a snakebite.

"The reason that it's important to go to a full-service emergency room as soon as possible after a snakebite is because they can produce an array of symptoms, including pain and swelling, nausea, convulsions and even paralysis," he said. "Quick treatment is essential for the best outcome."

Nurse Gosselin specifies a "full-service ER" because it is going to have the expertise and supplies needed to treat snakebites, including the right antivenin for area snakes.

Elizabeth Kim, MD, Medical City Lewisville Trauma Medical Director, explained, "Our emergency departments have the staff, training, supplies and equipment, as well as the policies and procedures to care for trauma patients."

Case in point: In the summer of 2016, Medical City Lewisville treated Lane Smith, then an 18-year-old high school student who was bitten by a copperhead snake while playing the wildly popular Pokemon Go smartphone game. Arriving first at Medical City ER Flower Mound with his parents, he was stabilized and transported to Medical City Lewisville for further observation and treatment.

Top tips for snakebite prevention.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services offers this advice for preventing snakebites:

  • Even if you don't think a snake is poisonous, don't attempt to handle or play with it unless you have the proper training
  • Keep your yard or campsite well-manicured; snakes love to hide in brush, inside logs or pipes and under rocks and leaves
  • Wear appropriate clothing, including long pants and boots, in areas where snakes may inhabit
  • Watch where you step and place your hands when outside; most snakebites happen because people accidentally get too close to or step on a snake

Never try to suck the venom from a snakebite and other tips.

Dr. Jason West, a trauma surgeon at Medical City Denton, offers these helpful tips if you can't avoid a snakebite:

  • Don't panic
  • Keep the bitten extremity even with the heart; raising it will circulate venom to the heart faster and lowering it will create additional swelling and pain
  • Only try to identify the snake (snap a picture if possible) if it's safe to do so
  • Never ice a snakebite; it can further damage tissue surrounding the wound
  • Never cut an “X” over the snakebite; this can also cause more damage
  • Never try to suck venom out of a snakebite; it won't work and you may introduce bacteria from your mouth into the wound

If you or a family member is bitten by a snake, dog or stinging insect, one of our many Medical City ER locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or visit Medical City Virtual Care for non-emergency medical treatment from your computer or smartphone.

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Revised 6/10/2019


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