Snakebites May Be On the Rise in South Carolina

May 25, 2018

With the coming of warm weather, more people are getting outdoors.  It’s a great idea – unless you’re bitten by a snake.  The number of snakebite calls to the Palmetto Poison Center has increased the past two years, to about 200 per year.  It’s probably not because more snakes are out there, but more emergency room doctors are calling the center for advice, because they don’t see that many snakebites, says center Director Dr. Jill Michels. 

Naturalist Jim Knight says a good way to avoid snakebite is to keep your eyes open and watch where you’re stepping, and to wear proper clothing when in the woods, such as high-top boots and long pants with baggy legs – no flip-flops or shorts.  He added that only about 30 percent of snakebites are causes for concern.  Knight says that about 30 percent  of snakebites are dry bites – that is, no poison is injected into the bite.  Another 40 percent of bites amount to little more reaction to a bee sting. 

But he says the best treatment for that other 30 percent  - the serious bites – is a set of car keys to get to the hospital with.  More advice: if bitten by a snake, DON’T drink alcohol, put the bitten area in ice or cut X’s over the fang marks and suck out the poison.  DO stay calm and get to the emergency room quickly.  Also, he says, it’s always wise to consult a good field guide and learn to differentiate venomous snakes from harmless ones – and watch them from a distance if you’re inclined.   But in general,  leave them alone, and they’ll leave you alone.