How Do You Treat Snake Bites?

Wednesday, June 3rd 2009, 6:32 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The warm weather has more people outdoors and that means more people will get snake bites.

One of our viewers wanted to know why the best treatment for snake bites isn't available at every hospital.

Oklahoma has three kinds of poisonous snakes.

The same anti-venom works for all kinds of bites, but it's not available everywhere because it's very expensive and doesn't have a long shelf life.

"I never, in my entire life, could imagine a poisonous snake bite could hurt that bad," said Jon Worhsam, a snake bite victim.

Jon Worhsam spent most of the last week in a hospital recovering from a single snake bite to his middle finger on his left hand.

It came from a snake so small, he thought it was a lizard.

"When it bit me I slung my hand, so instead of two nice holes it left a little cut," said Worhsam.

In the week since, he's been treated with anti-venom, antibiotics and had surgery to remove infection and he could possibly have lifelong pain.

For Scott Schaefer, a pharmacist at Oklahoma Poison Control, it's another case that shows the importance of new research into anti-venom.

"We know it's effective, but we want to know how effective and how long it takes for people to get back to work or school," said Scott Schaeffer of Oklahoma Poison Control Center.

Schaeffer says snake bites increase this time of year and everyone needs to know what does and doesn't work.

"There was the old western movie treatment of cutting the bite and sucking the venom out. For one, it doesn't really work and it greatly increases the risk of infection," said Schaeffer.

Worsham says the pain was incredible.

"And that was instantly. I got bit. I walked into the house and it was all white. It felt like someone had peeled the skin back and set a fire in there and put it back, it burned that bad," said Worhsam.

Worsham says his doctors believe they have saved his finger, after intensive treatment for what was such a small wound.

Oklahoma Poison Control recommends people call 911 for any snake bite because of the importance of prompt treatment with anti-venom.

Poison Control can quickly match up patients with a hospital that has it on hand.