Snake bites are growing concern

Adder. Photo courtesy of Natural England
Adder. Photo courtesy of Natural England

WALKERS in Northumberland are being warned of the dangers of snake bites.

The National Poisons Information Service is urging anyone planning on spending time outdoors this summer to take care, respect wildlife and leave snakes alone.

The service was commissioned by the Health Protection Agency as the poisons advisory body for frontline medics, and between 2009 and 2011 it was asked for help 196 times after patients were bitten by adders. Calls came from all regions and about half of the bites occurred after a snake was picked up.

Director of NPIS Newcastle Professor Simon Thomas said: “Adder numbers have decreased in recent years so they are rare, but still present in certain areas. They usually keep well out of sight, but in the summer months are active because the weather is warmer. Because they are well camouflaged people can accidentally tread on them, which is when they can bite. They can also bite if picked up.

“The bite can have very nasty effects, especially in smaller children, so it’s best to take care when out walking, wear appropriate footwear for the terrain and do not handle any snakes.”

Snake bites do not always inject venom, but there is a risk the wound may become infected. However, the anxiety caused to the patient is often the greatest health concern.

When an adder bite does deliver venom it can cause local pain, tenderness, swelling and bruising. If a child is bitten, effects may be seen across the whole body. Anyone bitten by a snake should seek urgent medical attention.