Warm weather can mean snakes, but Birmingham doctor offers tips for avoiding bites or seeking treatment

SnakeBIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The coming of warm weather means it’s time for people enjoying the great outdoors to be on the lookout for snakes.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital saw its first snakebite of the season about a month ago, according to UAB spokesperson Bob Shepard.

“That is a usual pattern,” Dr. Janyce Sanford, chair of the UAB Department of Emergency Medicine, said in a news release from the school. “As soon as the weather starts to warm up, snakes begin to get active, and we begin seeing a bite or two.”

Sanford suggests that people watch carefully for snakes while in the woods or near rivers or creeks and wear long pants and boots.

A cell phone can come in handy if one is bitten, according to Sanford. “Get to an emergency department as quickly as you safely can, and that can often be accomplished by calling 911,” she said.

Sanford also advises bite victims to snap a picture of the snake with a cellphone, if possible, but a photo is sufficient documentation for emergency-room personnel, according to Sanford.

“Leave the snake behind,” she said. “The last thing we need in a crowded emergency room is a snake, dead or alive.”

Emergency doctors do not need to see the snake, according to Sanford. This is because a lot of bites are dry — with no venom injected — or from a non-venomous snake. Medical personnel can watch the wound for a few hours to determine if there is venom present and, if needed, administer an antivenin.

Snakebites are not usually fatal, and those at higher risk are small children, the elderly and those with certain other medical conditions.

And there is no reason to be alarmed about the snake threat, according to Sanford. “We only see a few (snakebites) each spring, and people have a much greater chance of being stung by a bee or wasp or being bitten by a tick than being bitten by a snake,” she said.

By: Jesse Chambers


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