Spring Brings Snake Bite Calls to the Poison Center

Spring Brings Snake Bite Calls to the Poison Center

During the spring, warmer temperatures and rain mean an increase in calls to the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information (OCPDI) regarding snakebites. Specialists at the center work closely with physicians around the state to provide the best treatment advice for nearly 300 snakebite patients each year.

Oklahoma has three types of venomous snakes, all pit vipers: the copperhead, cottonmouth (also known as a water moccasin) and several species of rattlesnake. Venomous snakes native to Oklahoma have slit pupils, a triangular-shaped head and a heat-sensing pit on each side of the head between the eye and the nostril.

“In addition to the swelling, which can be severe, the venom from these snakes can cause problems with blood clotting, leading to internal bleeding,” said Scott Schaeffer, managing director of the Oklahoma Center for the Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information. He suggests washing the area immediately with soap and water, removing all jewelry and tight clothing, and calling the OCPDI as soon as possible. Bites by nonvenomous snakes require wound care and a tetanus booster if you have not had one within the last 10 years.

OCPDI offers the following tips to help prevent snakebite this spring:

  • DO NOT handle or play with snakes. Even dead snakes can bite reflexively.
  • Keep your landscape or campsite well-manicured.
  • Wear boots and long pants in areas known to have snakes, and avoid walking alone in these areas.
  • Watch where you step and place your hands when outdoors. Do not put your hands or feet into places you cannot see.
  • Carry a flashlight, and wear shoes when walking outside after dark.
  • Stay on open ground; walk on clear paths and avoid sleeping on the ground. Place your sleeping bag away from caves and rock piles.

Pharmacists and registered nurses at OCPDI are available 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week at (800) 222-1222. Poisoning emergencies are not handled through email.

The Oklahoma Center for Poison and Drug Information is a program of the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy at the OU Health Sciences Center. For more information, log on to www.oklahomapoison.org.