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Venomous Snakes – Preventing and Treating Injuries

- August 8, 2018 by Jim Garza (View all posts by Jim)

When outside temperatures warm up, snakes come out of their burrows to start the mating process and to get warm. They are the most active in the early evening just before sundown but can be seen at any time during the day. There are many types of venomous snakes in the United States, including rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths and coral snakes. They can be extremely dangerous to all outdoor workers.

Preventing snake bites:

  • Do not try to handle any snake.
  • Stay away from tall grass and piles of leaves when possible.
  • Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of wood.
  • Wear boots and long pants when working outside.
  • Wear leather gloves when handling brush and debris.
  • Find out what snakes are possible in your area – even the State of Wisconsin is home to venomous snakes!

Signs & symptoms of a venomous snake bite:

  • A pair of puncture marks at the wound.
  • Redness and swelling around the bite.
  • Severe pain at the site of the bite.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Labored breathing.
  • Disturbed vision.
  • Increased salivation and sweating.
  • Numbness/tingling.

First Aid-Treatment:

  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible (dial 911).
  • Try to remember the shape/color of the snake.
  • Keep calm and still to slow the spread of venom.
  • Inform your supervisor.
  • Apply first aid if you cannot get to the hospital right away.
    • Lay/sit with the bite below the level of the heart.
    • Wash the bite with soap and water.
    • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.

DO NOT do any of the following:

  • Pick up the snake or try to trap it.
  • Wait for symptoms to appear, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Apply a tourniquet.
  • Slash the wound with a knife.
  • Suck out the venom.
  • Apply ice or immerse in water.
  • Drink alcohol.
  • Drink caffeinated beverages

Here are some other safety tips for avoiding rattlesnakes:

  • Don’t stick your hands down holes, under ledges, in brush or under rocks.
  • When gardening, inspect concealed areas where rattlesnakes could be.
  • If you encounter a rattlesnake, head in the other direction.
  • Rattlesnakes usually don’t strike from a prone position, but they will if the circumstances call for it. Generally, they coil, rattle their tails and strike. Their reach is almost as long as their body, so give them a wide berth.
  • About 25 percent of the time, rattlesnake bites are “dry,” meaning they don’t inject any venom. However, a bite from any snake should be treated by medical professionals to avoid infections.
  • Learn to tell the difference between a rattler and other types of snakes before you encounter one. Rattlesnakes have flat, triangular shaped heads and, if they are old enough, will have rattles on the ends of their tails.
  • Rattlesnakes are deaf, but they are sensitive to vibrations. They won’t hear you coming, but they will pick up on your footsteps.

Resources/Citation:

Morris, Joan. “How to Stay Safe as Rattlesnakes Start Emerging from Their Winter Dens.” The Mercury News, The Mercury News, 14 Mar. 2018, www.mercurynews.com/2018/03/14/how-to-stay-safe-as-rattlesnakes-start-emerging-from-their-winter-dens/.

“Safety-and-Training -Venomous-Snakes.” Edison Power, 23 Apr. 2015, www.edisonpower.com/safety-and-training/safety-blog/venomous-snakes.

 
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