Showers Bring Snakes And Snake Bites
Two county residents were bitten by venomous snakes last week.
Shady Grove Adventist Hospital treated two Montgomery County residents for venomous snake bites last week, the latest in a summer that has seen an uptick in snake bite cases.
“On average, we usually have one or two poisonous snake bites a summer,” said Dr. Jonathan Wenk, an emergency department physician at the hospital. “This summer we’ve already had had five or six bites.”
Both patients were treated with an antivenom and were doing fine, Wenk said late last week.
Weather, like the rain that continues to flood the region this week, is a factor in the increase, said Scott Smith, a wildlife diversity ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, who specializes in snakes. In the case of last week's two bites, rain from Hurricane Irene likely drove the snakes out of their natural wooded habitats.
"The recent bad weather caused flood waters that forced the snakes into areas they otherwise wouldn’t be in," Smith said.
The same thing happened after Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and also led to some snake bites, he said.
There are 27 species of snakes found in Maryland, Smith said. Only two are considered venomous: the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. The copperhead, which is more common, was suspected in both bites.
“After a snake bite, most people feel immediate pain and can see two small puncture holes from the fang," Wenk said. "In some cases, there is immediate swelling along with dramatic and severe discoloration—red, pale/white, or purple/blue-ish in color. If the physician feels envenomation took place, they will recommend antivenom, an intravenous treatment.”
Physicians recommend that snake bite victims seek immediate medical attention.
“Try to get a good look at the snake and see what it looks like,” Wenk said. “Do not try to capture it or bring it to the hospital.”
Also, do not try any of the common home remedies for snake bites.
“Icing the wound constricts the blood flow of an already compromised blood flow area,” Wenk said. “Do not try to cut the wound or suck out the venom as these methods don’t work.”
There is a low chance of seeing a venomous snake, Smith said. Receiving an unprovoked bite is even more rare.
“If you leave the snakes alone, they will leave you alone,” he said. “Most of the bites in Maryland are when someone tries to pick up the snake.”
That was what Debra Panitch did when she found two baby snakes—which turned out to be copperheads—in her garden on Aug. 30.
See more about the Potomac resident's ordeal, which took her to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, in this report from Fox 5.