Do's and Don'ts of Treating Snake Bites in the Ozarks

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- When venomous snakes cross paths with humans, both can be startled and panicked.

These encounters often result in snake bites. The most common venomous snakes in the Ozarks are the rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins. What do you do if you get bitten by one of these poisonous snakes?

Dr. Janette Nesheiwat explains that as scary as it might be, a snake bite is not usually life-threatening.

Nine-year-old Levi Glenn experienced a snake bite when he was seven. He was playing at a campground after dark.

"I was playing with a flashlight and I stepped on a snake and it bit me. It felt like getting stung by 500 bees."

Levi's dad Jeremy knew what it was right away.

"It just looked like two little puncture wounds. It was red and a little bloody and then within three hours it really started swelling up pretty good."

Swelling is one of the most common reaction to a snake bite. Sometimes there is bleeding; sometimes some tissue damage. On average, there are 10,000 snake bites a year in the United States. Only a handful result in death. In very rare cases, a snakebite patient will be given anti-venom.

Levi's case was like most snake bites. He didn't require any treatment, and Levi's dad was surprised.

"They didn't want to give it to him, the snake bite venom, since he didn't need it."

Levi was better in just a few days.

"It swelled up so I was walking on my right foot on my tippy toe," he says.

It's important to remember what NOT do for a snake bite:

  • Don't cut the wound and suck the venom out
  • Don't use a tourniquet
  • Above all, don't panic

The best first aid for a snake bite is a set of car keys. If you get bitten by a snake, have someone drive you safely to your nearest emergency room.

Some things you can do to prevent snakes from making a home around your home:

  • Keep your grass cut low and keep your shrubs trimmed
  • Be careful around trash and wood piles where snakes like to hide
  • If you are in the woods or out hiking, make sure you wear the proper protective footwear.

Learn more from the Missouri Dept. of Conservation

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