Think Fast: What do you do if you are bitten by a snake?

Think Fast: What do you do if you are bitten by a snake?

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Snakes have been causing problems since the beginning of time, but the truth is, they're a very misunderstood animal. All snakes are more afraid of us than we are of them, but bites do occasionally happen. So, what would you do? Think fast.

Snakes are a part of life in south Louisiana. More than 40 different kinds call the Bayou State home, but only a select few will cause you problems.

"These are the three most common venomous snakes that people are likely to encounter here in Louisiana," said Dr. Christopher Austin, the curator of amphibians and reptiles at the LSU Museum of Natural Sciences. "The timber rattlesnake or the canebrake rattlesnake, that's a moderate-sized individual, gets a little bit bigger than that. And, the cotton mouth, which are incredibly common, especially around water here in Louisiana, so it's very, very common. And then, the copperhead."

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is also in the pit viper family, but it's nearly extinct in Louisiana. The venomous coral snake lives in Louisiana, too, but rarely comes out of hiding.

If you are bitten, the first priority is getting to a hospital. All emergency rooms are well stocked with anti-venom and it's the only thing that will stop the symptoms. You can tie a loose splint just above the bite and keep the affected limb below the heart.

A venomous snake bite will be painful, like an intense bee sting, and should cause a bruising discoloration on the skin. But, it's important not to panic.

"Try to be calm and not move around an awful lot because that will spread the venom throughout the system," Austin explained.

You should try to get a good look at the snake to give a description to the doctor, but do not try to kill it. That's when most secondary bites occur and if the snake is already dead, leave it alone.

"Even though the snake is dead, the venom is still active, so you really want to be careful about transporting or handling a dead rattlesnake or a dead cotton mouth or a dead copperhead 'cause you can still be envenomated by a dead snake," Austin added.

"Other things not do is to cut the wound, make slices in the wound area and try to suck out the venom. That's a big no no," Austin said.

That could make the situation much worse.

Ophidiophobia, or the fear of snakes, is usually completely irrational. Fewer than one in 37,000 people are bitten by a venomous snake each year in the US and only one in 50 million people will die. You're nine times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike.

Another thing not to do is apply ice or take aspirin or other blood thinners.

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