What You Need to Know About Snakes and Snake Bites

WASHINGTON — Most snake bites happen during the summer. Here are some tips for how to avoid snakes and what to do if you encounter one.

“They’re not aggressive, they’re not coming after you,” said Angel Bivens, the public education coordinator with the Maryland Poison Center. “They bite whenever you startle them.”

Here are a couple of things you can do to avoid snakes and give them fair warning:

  • When hiking, stick to the path
  • Hike with a walking stick to jostle grass and brush
  • Keep your distance, and don’t try to pick up snakes
  • Wear gloves when gardening
  • Use a garden tool to rustle plants before reaching into someplace you can’t see

Most snakes pose no threat to people. But Maryland is home to two venomous snakes: the timber rattlesnake and copperheads.

Both are also found in Northern Virginia.

Of 52 snakebite cases managed by the Maryland Poison Center so far this year, two involved timber rattlesnakes and 28 involved copperheads.

Bivens said if you’re bitten by a snake, don’t panic. Call the poison center immediately.

“If the person is having trouble breathing or losing consciousness you want to call 911,” Bivens said. “Aside from that, you have time to call the poison center. Wash the bite site with soap and water.”

Because every snake bite is different and not all poisonous snakebites require treatment with antivenom, Bivens said calling the poison center will assure you get the best advice for your situation.

Nationwide, you can get advice by calling poison control at 1-800-222-1222.

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