Sssnake Safety!

Stephanie Specht's picture
By Stephanie Specht on June 8, 2017

Can you spot the snake in the picture? It is pretty tough, isn't it?

Hiking is one of my favorite things to do this time of year, but I always worry about snakes. I understand that they serve a good purpose in the wild, but they give me the creeps and I am constantly worried about my son or my dogs getting bit.

To help ease my fears, I talked to Karen Kuehl, M.D., an emergency medicine physician and wilderness medicine expert at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Dr. Kuehl did admit that during the summer she does see quite a few copperhead bites and the occasional rattlesnake bite in the ER, but she assured me that death from snake bites is rare in the U.S.

“The rare occasions are when people are bitten around the mouth or face and they don’t seek medical attention,” she said.

Dr. Kuehl said that if you or one of your fellow hikers is bitten, do the following:

  • Stay calm.
  • Keep the bite area still and at the level of your heart. Do not elevate the bite area above or below your heart.
  • Do not use a snake bite extraction kit, as they can cause more harm than good.
  • Get to a hospital as soon as possible. Don't try to capture the snake to bring it with you (yes, she said people do that).

And when you do head outside, exercise some precaution and follow these tips: 

  • Keep your eyes and ears open and pay extra attention when you are hiking, especially during the warm summer months when snakes are more active.
  • Watch where you put your hands and your feet, particularly around rocks and logs. 
  • Use a walking stick to tap ahead of you. 
  • Wear long pants and a good pair of hiking boots with an upper for extra protection.
  • Always hike with a buddy.

Enjoy your time outside this summer and just keep your eyes peeled.