PRATT–Summer and snake bites don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, but both Logan Shoup, district wildlife biologist for Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism in Pratt, and Pratt Family Practice physician and medical director for Pratt Regional Medical Center Emergency Department Dr. Eric Clarkson, said that in light of a few reports of snake-involved interaction, proper advice was warranted.
"The big thing to remember is that, ninety-nine times out of 100, snakes in Kansas are going to be harmless," Shoup said. "The snakes that we do have are a vital part of the eco-system, serving as prey for hawks, falcons and occasionally eagles. They are also predators of rodents and small animals."
Shoup said Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita has "A Pocket Guide to Kansas Snakes" available for free download as a PDF from Center’s website, https://gpnc.org/, a resource useful for identification purposes.
A rattlesnake reported in Bucklin several weeks ago and removed from a neighborhood by the Ford County Sheriff’s Department. However, published advice on how to handle a snake-bite emergency in connection to that report was incorrect in stating that a tourniquet and ice should be applied.
In the event of a snake bite, Clarkson said first action taken should be to remove the patient from the snake’s territory.
"Attempt to identify the snake only if it is safe for the patient and the rescuer, and if it will not delay transport of the patient to definitive medical care," Clarkson said.
Clarkson said a digital photo taken at a safe distance could be helpful in identifying the snake’s species.
As a safety precaution, if there is concern that the snake bite might be venomous, jewelry should be removed from the infected area and footwear can also be removed, Clarkson said.
Also, if there is concern the bite might be venomous, the patient should not be allowed to walk because exertion and local muscle contraction may increase snake venom absorption, Clarkson said.
"Do not manipulate the wound except to permit gentle bandaging," Clarkson said.
A quarter of venomous bites are dry, where the snake chooses not to inject any venom, so any cutting above the bite or applying a tourniquet could cause more tissue injury or infection, Clarkson said.
"In general, we are not seeing a lot of snake bites," Clarkson said. "The odds that you will be bit by a venomous snake in our area are very low. The most important thing is to come to the ER as soon as possible if bit by a venomous snake."
Clarkson said that for non-venomous snake bites, tetanus can be a concern, so it’s good to be sure your tetanus booster is current or take action to get the vaccination as a precaution.
"We do usually use any puncture wound as an opportunity to ask and update tetanus vaccine," Dr. Clarkson said.
He reiterated that it is never advisable to put a tourniquet above or below a snake-bite wound. Nor is it advisable to apply ice. Staying calm and getting to an emergency room is the best course of action.