ER doctor gives tips to avoid summer toxins

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As people head outside to enjoy the summer weather, many will wind up with an unplanned side trip to the Emergency Room.

Louisiana is hot bed of poisonous plants, bugs, and animals, and physicians often see an increase in environmental toxin cases in the summer months.

"We see more snake bites in the summer because it heats up, snakes are more active and people are outside," said emergency physician Dr. Terrell "Bear" Caffery.

While there are dozens of species of snakes found in Louisiana, experts explain the most common venomous snakes seen locally are copperheads, rattle snakes, and water moccasins. All three belong to the family of pit vipers. For doctors, that means they are treated with the same type of anti-venom.

"Many of the snake bites we see are very mild, 25 percent of even poisonous snake bites are dry, meaning they don't inject any venom," said Caffery. "The others we treat clinically meaning, how they progress and we watch them over time."

Caffery said the most common snake bite victims he sees are people who work outside and stumble upon the reptile hiding in a cool place. He pointed out it's important to use caution in areas with tall grass or pilings that would provide shade.

If you are bitten, Caffery advises to stay calm and head to the ER immediately. The doctor said the wound should not be cut, nor should tourniquets be used. He also said patients should not try to kill or catch the snake, adding it is not necessary for proper treatment and usually leads to more injuries.

When it comes to bug bites and stings, Caffery says it's important to watch for signs of an allergic reaction.

"It will develop swelling and redness. Especially if the redness spreads to other sites of the body, so they start having distant hives, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, their voice changes, they need to get to us immediately," said Caffery.

If you do have an severe allergy, Caffery said it's vital to always have an epi-pen on hand.

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