Poison Center: Snake bite calls in the Carolinas quadrupled last year's numbers

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The number of calls to the Carolinas Poison Center (CPC) about snake bites has increased nearly four-fold from what the center was seeing this time last year.

Officials from the CPC said the milder winter is thought to be a contributing factor to the spike in calls. In April 2017, the center received 71 calls about snake bites as compared to 19 calls in April 2016.

Copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes (eastern diamondback, pigmy, and timber), and the coral snake are the venomous species native to North Carolina. The coral is the most rare, and the copperhead is the most plentiful.

The Carolinas Poison Control Center says receives ten times the number of calls about copperhead bites than all other snakes combined.

"Venom is poison, and we handle all kinds of poison exposures—including exposures to venom," said Dr. Michael C. Beuhler, Medical Director of the Carolinas Poison Center. "We help treat around 500 snake bites statewide every year."

The CPC says with this increase, snake bite calls are anticipated to hit well over the 500 mark for the year.

The CPC says a "surprising number of snake bites can be treated and watched at home with the help of a poison control center."

About half of all snake bites that the poison center is consulted about can be treated without antivenom. This can be a big cost savings for snake-bitten patients.

If bitten, there are also some things people can do to make the situation worse.  If bitten DO NOT:

  • Cut the bitten area and suck the venom out. This can cause infection.
  • Ice the area. Icing causes additional tissue damage.
  • Apply a tourniquet or tight bandage. It’s better for the venom to flow through the body.
  • Attempt to catch or kill the snake. You might get bitten again.

There are several things people can do to lessen their chance of being bitten:

  • Check boots and shoes that are laying in the garage or outside before putting them on.
  • Wear sturdy boots or shoes when outside, especially when gardening or hiking.
  • Watch your step when outside and watch where your hands go—use a flashlight if it’s dark.
  • Back away slowly if you see a snake.  Don’t try to pick it up or move it. Snakes can bite when they feel threatened.

The Carolinas Poison Center offers North Carolina residents free and confidential phone or online assistance with poisoning emergencies and questions about poisons. The number to Carolinas Poison Center is 1-800-222-1222.

Carolinas Poison Center is one of 55 poison centers serving the U.S. and is certified by the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

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