While North Carolina may be known for its beautiful beaches and quaint mountain towns, the Tar Heel State now another distinction, though not quite as appealing. North Carolina now leads the nation in copperhead snake bites according to a recent report by the Carolina’s Poison Center.
North Carolina has five venomous snakes that cause the majority of snake bite poisonings (copperhead, cottonmouth, eastern diamondback, pygmy, and timber), but it’s the copperhead that causes the most bites. Copperheads are not usually aggressive snakes, but they will bite to protect themselves or to secure food. Children who are playing outdoors and adults who are gardening are especially at risk for snake bites.
In 2009, 499 snake bites were reported to Carolina’s Poison Center. Of those, 228 were identified as copperhead bites. About 30% of all reported snake bites are “dry,” which means venom is not injected. Most bites can be treated with wound care and pain management. Some serious bites require anti-venom. July and August are the most common months for people to get bitten.
“Snake bites happen in urban and rural areas. Unfortunately, North Carolina has a high occurrence of snake bites because of the number of snakes we have native to our area. Pine straw, dried leaves, and wood piles are all popular hideouts for snakes,” said Anna Dulaney, Assistant Director of Education for Carolinas Poison Center.
Following are some tips to avoid a snake bite:
- Make sure your home foundation area is clear of debris.
- Don’t allow shrubs to become overgrown.
- Don’t store wood piles right up against the house.
- Keep grass trimmed.
- Wear shoes when outside.
- If you see a snake, do not try to catch or kill it. Back away slowly and keep children or pets away until you don’t see the snake anymore.
- If you are bitten, don’t panic. Do not ice the wound or apply a tourniquet. Don’t cut the wound and attempt to suck out the venom. Do keep the bite site still and seek medical attention right away. Call the poison center if you have questions about snake bites.
- Carolina’s Poison Center (CPC) offers North Carolina residents 24/7 free and private assistance with suspected and actual poisonings. The CPC is staffed by specialists ready to help manage a variety of poison exposures. Examples of possible poisons include household products, chemicals, carbon monoxide, drugs (prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, or illegal), snake bites, and spider bites. Call 1-800-222-1222 for a poison exposure or to request information about poisons.