The Carolinas Poison Center in Charlotte averages about 500 calls annually about snake bites each year. But they expect that number to be higher this year, thanks to an unusually high number of calls during April.
In 2016, the Center received 19 calls about snake bites, but this year, that number jumped to 71. Officials with the Center believe one of the main reasons for that is the milder winter we had throughout the Carolinas, which kept snakes more active in the early spring than they usually are.
The Carolinas have six species of venomous snakes. Copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasin), pigmy rattlesnakes, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes, timber rattlesnakes, and coral snakes are the ones we all want to avoid as much as possible.
Unfortunately, as outdoorsmen, we are often pursuing our favorite outdoor activities where these snakes live, so encounters aren’t completely uncommon. Snake bites though, are still a relatively rare thing given how much time we spend outdoors.
Among those species, the coral snake is the rarest in this part of the country. The copperhead is the most plentiful throughout the Carolinas.
Contrary to the snake bite kits many of us grew up with, which included a suction mechanism and a sharp blade, experts now warn against cutting the area and sucking the venom out. It simply doesn’t work, and is more likely to cause infection than anything else. We also should not ice the bitten area, which can lead to additional tissue damage. Applying a tourniquet or tight bandage is also not recommended, as poison experts now know it’s best to let the venom flow throughout the body rather than have it confined to one small area.
Attempting to catch or kill the snake is also a no-no, according to the Center, because it may lead to another bite.
Avoiding getting bitten is obviously the best choice, and the Center said people can lessen their chances of being bitten by checking boots and shoes before putting them on, wearing sturdy boots when outside, pay careful attention to where you’re stepping, and to back away slowly if you see a snake.
If you or someone you know is bitten, it’s best to keep calm and dial 911 and/or proceed to the nearest emergency room. Most snake bite victims in the United States recover fully, as long as they get medical help as soon as possible.