AUSTIN, Texas — People who live in a southeast Austin neighborhood are a little rattled by a snake infestation.
"Lately it's been rattlesnake after rattlesnake after rattlesnake," said Claire O'Neal, who lives off Beacon Knob Drive.
Snakes are visitors O'Neal and her neighbors weren't expecting.
"People in their front yard are on pins and needles," she said. "Me especially because I have a nine-month-old son and a 30-pound dog."
There are four kinds of venomous snakes in Central Texas: the coral snake, the copperhead, cottonmouths (water moccasins) and rattlesnakes.
If you take a stroll around this neighborhood near McKinney Falls, you're likely to see one run over on the road.
"Every day someone is, like, 'I saw a snake,'" she said.
The group of neighbors even have a Google map set up, pinning snakes seen in the area.
"This is the time of year they are moving around," said Brian Kelly, who works for ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin.
"The odds of you running across one are going to be there," he said, especially with development disturbing their land.
ABC Home & Commercial Services gets at least a dozen snake sighting calls a day.
"Close any holes and look around, and close any openings that you have," said Kelly.
Taking precaution is something Shawn Valance is very aware of.
"I'm trying to take precaution for my house," said Valance. "I'm closing holes and removing clutter to make sure they're not hibernating."
Kelly said snakes like to get under things around the yard and having those things cleared out can help a lot.
This is a slithering situation this neighborhood hopes doesn't get any worse.
"We have each other's back because it feels like it's a snake invasion," said O'Neal. "And it's scary."
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, here is what they recommend for you to do if you are bitten by a snake:
- Assume envenomation has occurred, especially if initial symptoms are present. Initial symptoms of pit viper bites include fang puncture marks; in addition, they almost always include immediate burning pain at the bite site, immediate and usually progressive local swelling within five minutes, as well as local discoloration of the skin. Initial symptoms of coral snake bites include tremors, slurred speech, blurred or double vision, drowsiness or euphoria and a marked increase in salivation within four hours; however, life-threatening effects from coral snake envenomation may not be evident for 24 hours or longer.
- Identify the species of venomous snake that inflicted the bite, if possible, taking care to avoid another person being bitten. Identification is not necessary, but may be helpful.
- Keep the victim as calm as possible. This helps reduce the spread of venom and the onset of shock.
- Keep yourself and any other members of the group calm as well. This will help reassure the victim and ensure that the appropriate first-aid measures are followed, as well as preventing anyone else from becoming injured.
- Know and be alert for the symptoms of shock, and institute the proper treatment should it ensue. Difficulty in breathing and/or kidney failure are frequent symptoms of envenomation.
- Wash the bite area with a disinfectant if available.
- Remove jewelry such as rings and watches, as well as tight-fitting clothes, before the onset of swelling.
- Reduce or prevent movement of a bitten extremity, using a splint if possible; this helps decrease the spread of venom. For the same reason, position the extremity below the level of the heart.
- Get the victim to a medical facility as soon as possible and begin treatment there with intravenous antivenom, crystalloid solutions and antibiotics. Antivenom treatment is generally most effective within the first four hours of envenomation, and is ineffective after 8-10 hours.
This is what Texas Parks and Wildlife recommends NOT to do if you are bitten by a snake:
- Do not make incisions over the bite marks. This can result in significant damage to already traumatized tissue, and can damage intact structures such as nerves and blood vessels, enhance bleeding caused by anticoagulant components of venom and increase the rapid spread of venom throughout the body if the circulatory system is compromised. A suction device, such as the Sawyer ExtractorTM, may be used without making any incisions. This device may remove significant quantities of venom, although its efficacy has yet to be conclusively determined.
- Do not use a tourniquet or other constricting ban except in extreme cases of envenomation, and then only if properly trained in the technique. Such devices are of no value if applied more than thirty minutes after the bite, and if improperly used they can restrict blood vital blood flow to the traumatized tissue and possibly result in the amputation of an extremity. Unbearable pain can also result, and the improper loosening of such devices can allow sudden systemic absorption of venom.
- Do not use cryotherapy (including cold compresses, ice, dry ice, chemical ice packs, spray refrigerants, and freezing) for the same reasons that the tourniquets should be avoided, and also because it can increase the area necrosis.
- Do not use electroshock therapy, a method popularized following publication of a letter from a missionary in South America reporting its effectiveness in treating bites from snakes of uncertain identity. Several controlled clinical trials and at least one on humans have failed to demonstrate any positive result; moreover, the potential negative results from the uncontrolled use of an electric charge are obvious.
- Do not drink alcohol, as it dilates blood vessels and increases absorption from the circulatory system, and thus helps spread venom faster.
- Do not use aspirin or related medications to relieve pain, because they increase bleeding. A pain reliever not containing aspirin, however, may be used.
- Do not use the pressure/immobilization technique, which consists of firmly wrapping the entire limb with an elastic bandage and then splinting, especially for pit viper bites. The theory behind this treatment is to confine the venom to the area of the bite until reaching a medical facility, but studies have shown the technique to be ineffective or worse with venoms which produce local swelling and tissue damage.
- Do not administer antivenom in the field unless properly trained in the procedure, unless evacuation to a medical facility will take many hours or days, or unless envenomation has been extreme. Intramuscular or subcutaneous application of antivenom has proven to be much less effective, and in some cases ineffective, than intravenous administration. Acute allergic reactions to antivenom can occur, and contemplated field administration of antivenom should include provision for a sufficient supply of epinephrine (adrenalin) to counteract any such potential effects.
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