Spring has sprung through most of the United States, which causes people to head to the great outdoors to exercise. While out hiking at a state park recently, one of my friends got a rude awakening – the tell-tale rattling sound of a rattlesnake poised to strike. Luckily, she heard the warning and slowly moved back and went a different way.
Since warmer temperatures bring out the snakes, it’s important to be careful as you head out to play. Approximately 7,000-8,000 people are bitten each year by a poisonous snake. Fortunately, because most people who are bitten seek medical care, only about five of the people who are bitten actually die.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the types of venomous snakes commonly found in the United States include the following:
- Rattlesnake – There are many species of this stake and they are the largest of venomous snakes. Usually found sunning themselves near logs, boulders or open areas, these snakes use their rattles to warn intruders when they feel threated. “They can accurate strike at up to one-third their body length,” the CDC warns.
- Copperhead – These snakes vary in color and they have colored bands on their body that are most often hourglass-shaped. Copperheads aren’t usually aggressive, but will freeze when frightened. They’re often found in forests, rocky areas, swamps or near water sources.
- Cottonmouth (water moccasin) – This type of snake can average 55 inches in length. The adults tend to be dark tan, brown or nearly black and have black or dark brown crossbands. Juvenile cottonmouths have a bold crossband that is brown or orange with a yellow tail. “Cottonmouths are frequently found in or around water,” the CDC warned. “They do not scare easily and will defend themselves when threatened.”
- Coral snake – The CDC notes that coral stakes can be confused with nonvenomous king snakes since they have similar colored bands. “However, if the red bands are touching the yellow bands, then it is a venomous coral snake,” the website notes. These snakes often hide in leaf piles or burrow into the ground.
Most snakes will try to avoid people, but will bite when they are threatened or surprised. While most snakes are harmless, you need to treat a bit as serious unless you are really sure that you know the type of snake that has bitten.
MedlinePlus.com, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Institutes of Health, stated that symptoms (depending on the type of snake) can include: bleeding from the wound, blurry vision, burning of the skin, convulsions, diarrhea, dizziness, excessive sweating, fainting, fang marks, fever, increased thirst, loss of muscle coordination, nausea and vomiting, numbness and tingling, rapid pulse, tissue death, severe pain
So what if you are bitten? The Journal of American Medical Association recommends that you remain calm and move around as little as possible, but seek medical attention as soon as possible. They’ve produced a handy fact sheet that provides a visual description of the head of a venomous snake vs. one that is nonvenomous.