Snake Bite Myths with Dr. Ben Abo (part 1)

snake biteWe have Dr. Ben Abo ([email protected]) on the show tonight to talk about some common myths about snake bite injuries. Before he comes on, Kyle Nelson (@WxKyleNelson), our resident severe and disaster weather expert, joins us to talk about the upcoming severe weather roundup. Also on the call is Dr. Joe Holley calling in from his home base in Memphis.
First are the old myths about coral snakes in North America. The rhyme about  “Red touch black, safe for Jack. Red touches yellow, kills a fellow” is only true for one variety of coral snake in North America. It’s also a myth that coral snakes have to “latch on” for the venom to transmit. The coral snake venom is a neurotoxin and the effects can be delayed for hours after the bite. The only treatment is the antivenin for that particular bite. There are often permanent effects depending on where the bite is located.

Pit Viper Snake Bite

Aside from the coral snake, most of the venomous snakes in North America are pit vipers (rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, etc.) The good news is that most of these use a common synthetic antivenin to treat all of them. The biggest problem is inappropriate field treatments. For pit vipers, which have a cellular toxin, it is NOT recommended to apply a tourniquet of any kind to the area above the wound. Otherwise, the toxin will pool in the area around the wound and cause additional cellular damage.
Other Snake Bite Don’ts:
Don’t chase after the snake.
Don’t try to capture the snake.
Don’t handle a dead snake. Even a dead snake’s fangs can envenom someone.
Make sure you check out part two of this episode next week!

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