A frantic 911 call to the Fire Dispatch:
Caller: “I want to report a snake bite.”
Dispatcher: “Where is the snake now? In the house or in the yard?”
Caller: “I don’t know. We’re in the car taking the dog to the hospital.”
All joking aside, with the decrease in rainfall and the increase of dead vegetation, animals are forced to forage for food, water and coolness in other areas – your area! Now that the weather is getting warmer, have you noticed an increase in the animal bite stories?
Animal internal mechanisms has assisted them in responding to hot, dry conditions in various ways. Obvious ways of coping with heat include seeking shade and burrowing or preferring to rest under a bush, rock or in a crevice during the cooler temperatures of the early morning or afternoon. Snakebites occur more frequently in warm weather, when people are more active outdoors. Most bites occur on the legs or feet when the animal is startled or disturbed. Most try to avoid an encounter, only biting as a last resort. Approximately 10,000 snake bites are reported each year, less than ten are fatal, yet the after effects of the poison secreted to the skin can cause scaring, tissue and/or nerve damage.
Poisonous snake bites are medical emergencies, with children at a higher risk for death or serious complications because of their smaller body size. Getting the person to an emergency room as quickly as possible is very important. If properly treated, many snakebites will not have serious effects.
TYPES OF POISONOUS SNAKES
Two families of venomous snakes are native to the United States the Pit Viper (includes rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths or water moccasins) and coral snakes. Pit Viper is derived from a small pit between the nostril and the eye on each side of its head. The bite of the Pit Viper is a lightning-fast strike, usually to the leg or hand, as the snake injects venom from its two fangs. Coral snakes inject venom by chewing on the victim. They often allow you to handle them for long periods of time before biting.
The men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department would like to share some of the following safety tips in preparation of the "long, hot and dry summer."
- Find out what local snakes and lizards are common to your area. Learn what they look like, whether they are poisonous, and where you are most likely to encounter them.
- Avoid areas where snakes may be hiding -- under rocks, logs, etc.
- Avoid picking up or handling snakes. Even with a severed head, a snake can release venom through reflexes for up to an hour after it death.
- If you see a snake or lizard, do not disturb it. The striking range of a snake is about half of its length.
- When hiking in an area known to have snakes, wear long pants and boots if possible.
- Tap ahead of you with a long walking stick before entering an area with an obscured view of your feet, especially foot tall grass, weeds or small brush. Snakes will attempt to avoid you if given adequate warning.
- If you are a frequent hiker, consider purchasing a snakebite kit (available from hiking supply stores.)
SIGNS OF A POISONOUS BITE
- The area of the bite swells, changes color or secretes a bloody discharge from the wound
- Blurred vision or dizziness
- Burning sensation
- Excessive sweating
- Increased thirst
- Local tissue death or discoloration
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Nausea and vomiting
- Numbness and tingling
- Rapid pulse
- Severe pain
RECOMMENDED FIRST AID
- Keep the person calm. Reassure them that snake bites can be treated effectively in an emergency room. Restrict the person’s movement, keeping the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
- Remove any rings or items that can cause constriction causing the affected area to swell. Create a loose splint to help restrict movement of the affected area.
- Monitor the person's vital signs -- temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure -- if possible. If there are signs of shock (such as paleness), lay the person flat, raise the feet about a foot, and cover the person with a blanket.
- Get medical help immediately.
- Apply tourniquets
- Apply cold compresses
- Cut into a snake bite with a knife or razor
- Try to suction the venom out using the mouth
- Raise the site of the bite above the level of the person's heart
Los Angeles Fire Department