Did you know that September 19th is International Snakebite Awareness Day? Each year, 5.4 million people world-wide are bit by venomous snakes. Somewhere around 100,000 die and another 400,000 end up with physical or mental disabilities. In the United States, an average of 7,500 people get bit each year.
Who knew? And that's exactly the problem according to Jay Fox, a professor and associate dean of research at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He's also president of the International Society of Toninology, which proclaimed today International Snakebite Awareness Day.
Being aware is a good thing, especially where getting bit by a snake is concerned. For example, the venom from a cottonmouth or copperhead rarely kills, although during the time spent recovering from the bite you might wish you were dead! The pain can be unbearable.
The range of copperhead snakes, which are found in the southeastern United States, extends from Texas and Louisiana to Southern New England, which is widely considered the snake’s northern limit. Experts say the snakes are mostly found in states that have long periods of warm weather. Another particularly venomous species is the timber rattlesnake. Should you encounter a snake, slowly create distance.
Sometimes hikers are not sure that they have been bitten. A snake fang puncture might not go all the way through your shoe or pants even if you are struck. You might feel "something" and perhaps even glimpse "something" moving away through the weeds. You may not hear a rattle. But a pair of puncture marks at the wound is definitely a sign of a venomous snake bite, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of a bite can include redness or swelling, severe pain, nausea and vomiting, labored breathing, disturbed vision, increased salivation and sweating, and numbness or tingling in the face or limbs. The CDC says to seek medical attention as soon as possible in the case of a snake bite, to try to remember the snake's color and shape and to keep still and calm to slow the spread of any venom. Those who cannot get to the hospital right away should lie or sit down with the bite below the level of the heart, wash the bite with soap and water and cover it with a clean, dry dressing. It is not recommended to take steps such as applying a tourniquet or attempting to suck out the venom, according to the CDC.
Prevention is always the safest route, so be proactive and wear snake gaiters or chaps or snake boots whenever in the woods or desert where snakes are known to live. Don't take a chance! Snake bite protection can safe your life.