What to do when a snake bites - | WBTV Charlotte

What to do when a snake bites

(Photo courtesy Eli Solomon) (Photo courtesy Eli Solomon)

With the warmer weather comes more reports of snake bites and snake sightings in the Carolinas.

While most snakes are non-venomous and not aggressive unless threatened, a snake bite from a venomous snake can be a serious health emergency.

According to the Carolinas Poison Center, there are 37 species of snakes found in North Carolina, but five venomous snakes cause the majority of poisonings.

Monday, a man shopping at a Lowe's Home Improvement store in Denver was bitten by a copperhead in the garden center. An employee called 911 and the man is receiving treatment in the hospital from a bite on the wrist.

RELATED: Copperhead bites customer at Lincoln Co. Lowe's

Keeley Zimmerman, who works at the Live Animals Manager at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, says the incident surprises her. She expects the snake probably felt threatened.

In our area, Zimmerman says copperheads can be found outside during the day sunning themselves. Their bites can cause swelling and pain, even neurological damage to the very young or those with health problems. Zimmerman says they are not usually deadly.

MOBILE USERS: Click here for a visual guide to NC's native snakes.

Several viewers have shared their concerns about snakes appearing outside near their homes.

“There’s a lot of things you can do to warn a snake you’re coming,” said Zimmerman. She said people should make noise and use stick to walk through tall brush.

“If they hear you coming they are going to more likely to go away, than stay and attack,” she said.
If bitten, the Carolinas Poison Center recommends: 

  • Sit down and stay calm.
  • Gently wash the area with warm, soapy water.
  • Remove any jewelry or tight clothing near the bite site.
  • Keep the bitten area still, if possible, and raise it to heart level.
  • Call the Carolinas Poison Center:  1-800-222-1222.

If bitten by a snake, you SHOULD NOT:

  • Cut the bitten area to try to drain the venom.  This can worsen the injury.
  • Ice the area. Icing causes additional tissue damage.
  • Make and apply a tourniquet or any tight bandage. It’s better for the venom to flow through the body than for it to stay in one area.
  • Suck or use a suction device to remove the venom.
  • Attempt to catch or kill the snake.

For more information from the Carolinas Poison Center, click here.

SNAKE RESOURCE: Davidson College's "Snakes of NC"

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