Watch your step; snake season arrives in Verde Valley

Although snakes are commonly feared and often despised, the incidence of individuals in the Verde Valley and Sedona area who encounter the wrong end of a pair of fangs is usually very few.

However, authorities at Verde Valley Medical Center report there have been an unusually high number of snakebites in the past two weeks.

According to VVMC and SMC Emergency Department Director Sheri Earls, most snakebite occur as a result of people's inattentiveness to their surroundings.

"Please look carefully before moving rocks or object that may be providing shade for a snake," said Earls. "Be cautions when walking through fields with tall grass, or down by the river or creeks. Keep in mind snakes are more active in the cooler hours of the day."

Experts advise that when hiking, careful care should be taken to make sure where you put your hands and feet. "And if you do encounter a rattlesnake, please leave it alone!" added Earls.

Physicians in the Emergency Department report many snakebites occur as a result of people deliberately handling venomous snakes.

According to Hans Koenig, wildlife biologist with the Arizona Game & Fish Department, snakes should not be indiscriminately exterminated. Koenig recommends that people not attempt to handle, kill or capture any snake. Even a newborn rattlesnake has the potential of delivering serious injury. Koenig contends snakes serve an important function in the ecological balance by reducing the rodent population, which carry diseases such as hantavirus.

If you are bitten, and are unsure if the snake is venomous, assume it is and call 911.

"The most important thing is to try to stay calm and still," said Emergency Physician Phil Garrod.

According to Garrod, rapid movements will circulate venom more quickly so victims should position themselves so the bite is below their heart. Bite victims should also remove constricting clothing and jewelry.

Verde Valley Medical Center suggests if you are with someone who has been bitten, follow the above instructions. If the victim is not breathing or does not have a pulse, CPR should be initiated. If you need to transport a victim to a car, experts suggests they be carried (if possible) to reduce further circulation of the venom.

Experts agree there are certain no-no's victims and family members should remember like, DO NOT make an incision or attempt to suck the venom. DO NOT ice the bite -- tissue may die and finally, DO NOT apply a tourniquet, it can damage tissue.

All Northern Arizona Healthcare facility Emergency departments, including Sedona Medical Center, carry anti-venom but with luck, common sense and a healthy dose of respect, you may never need it.

For information about first aid and CPR classes, phone the VVMC Education department at 639-6398.


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