Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: What Should You Do if You are Bit by a Snake?


It’s the time of year when snakes start to make their appearance.  And, when you do spot one, it can be difficult to tell if it’s poisonous or not.

“Unless you know a good bit about snakes, it can be difficult to tell what snakes are poisonous from those that are not,” said Dr. Dan Riccardi, an emergency room physician at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.  

Dr. Riccardi says there are two main types of poisonous snakes in Virginia…the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake.

Although keeping your distance is the best way to stay safe, if you do get bit – regardless of the type of snake – doctors say you should get checked out.

“Anyone who is bit by a snake needs to be evaluated by a physician who has some sort of expertise in treating snake bites,” said Dr. Riccardi.  “Early on, symptoms can be subtle and we want to treat venomous snake bites as soon as we can to prevent complications.”

Doctors also stress it’s important to slightly elevate any bite, and remain as calm as possible while seeking treatment.  They also say to avoid trying any treatment tricks yourself that you may have seen online.

“You don’t want to make little cuts over the bite and suck the venom out,” said Dr. Riccardi.  “You also don’t want to put a tourniquet around the limb and you don’t want to immerse the limb in ice.” 

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, please email healthquestions@nbc29.com.

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

Do you have health questions? Get the answers every Monday morning from the experts in our feature: Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday.

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