AUSTIN, Texas — As the weather gets warmer and families take their annual bluebonnet photos outside, medical experts at St. David's HealthCare are warning the community to be wary of snakes.
Kristen Hullum, the trauma injury prevention coordinator at St. David's Round Rock Medical Center, said people tend to encounter snakes when they're in the bluebonnets because that's their home.
"They like to be in these grassy little areas. So when you're going to take pictures in the bluebonnets, it's best to have an adult venture ahead of the kids and maybe with a stick just make some noise and walk around a little bit and make sure that there are no snakes in the area before you set your children down," Hullum said.
Snakes can be hiding anywhere this time of year, whether it's in backyards or along trails. Hullum said snakes like to be under things like a shed, firewood, piles or curled up behind rocks.
"Teach your children that these are the places where snakes like to be so that they can avoid them and not get too close, in case there is a venomous snake there," Hullum said.
In the case there is a venomous snake or if you get bitten, health officials recommend staying calm. It's important to keep your heart rate as low as possible.
"The faster your heart rate is, the faster the venom will circulate around your body. So if we can keep you calm and still and in the same place, assuming there's some distance now between you and the snake, then let the help come to you and transport you out to the hospital," Hullum said.
Common snakebite symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision and labored breathing, as well as serious pain and swelling at the site of the bite. Hullum said if you're bitten by a snake and have any type of restricted clothing or jewelry in that area, you'll want to remove it before the area begins to swell.
Ways to prevent snakebites include wearing long pants and boots when outside to prevent snakes getting to your skin. Also, make sure you haven't created an environment that is inviting to snakes.
"They need a food source. So if you believe that you have a rodent issue, then it would be best to get rid of those so that the snakes are not there to have a meal," Hullum said.
If you're in contact with a snake, Hullum said the best thing to do is go to the emergency room because nurses and doctors will need to assess if it was a venomous snake. They will also monitor your lab results and your vital signs and give you antivenom, if that's appropriate for you.