Warning about snake bites

Warning about snake bites
Snakes are on the move across Southwest Louisiana after a warm, wet winter and a springlike pattern now. (Source: KPLC)

A warning in this week's What's Going Around: snakes are on the move in Southwest Louisiana.

A snake bite brought a patient to an area emergency room over the weekend and with a springtime weather pattern underway now, you need to know how to protect yourself.

From Reeves to Rosepine and Merryville to Westlake, viewers have sent in pictures of snakes slithering around their property over the past couple of weeks.  While the vast majority are not venomous, those that are can be deadly.

"There's 50 types of snakes in the United States, just a handful are venomous," says Dr. Jay Marque with Lake Charles Urgent Care. "We have all of these types here in Southwest Louisiana: rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins or the crotalids, and we also have coral snakes, although they're less common."

Dr. Marque has treated snake bites before.

"About 25 percent of snake bites are what we call dry bites, where minimal or no venom is injected into the person," said Dr. Marque.  "If a significant amount of venom is injected, we usually first see local swelling and bruising in the area of the bite and if left untreated, that will progress to local tissue around the area of the bite."

From there, Dr. Marque says if left untreated, a person can move from nausea, vomiting and weakness, to neurological damage, even shock - and death.  That is why immediate medical treatment is needed.

"You lay the patient down.  You keep the injured extremity at the level of the heart and then transport to the closest medical facility," said Dr. Marque.

Emergency departments are equipped with antivenom if there is more than local swelling and a person is typically admitted for at least 24 hours.

While all snakes can bite, there are big differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes.

"Most venomous snakes have triangular head and then they have elliptical eyes and larger fangs, whereas non-venomous snakes have a more oval head with round pupils and teeth instead of fangs," said Dr. Marque.

It is not advised that you get that close to a possibly venomous snake to make the distinction.  Dr. Marque says if you will be working outside, just be aware that snakes could be near.

"Snakes want to avoid humans as much as we want to avoid them, so this time of year if you're out doing yard work or hunting, you just need to be alert and look for them because they're out there," he said.

Dr. Marque says if you are bitten by a snake, do not use a restrictive dressing as immediate first aid.  If it is a coral snake, though, you do want to apply pressure to the wound.

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