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Cottonmouths and rattlesnakes — What happens if you get bit along the Grand Strand?

Grand Strand Regional students get first-hand look at snakes

Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach hosted a group of Grand Strand Regional Medical Center residents for a first-hand look at venomous snakes and the the various types of snake bites they can expect to see in the emergency room.
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Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach hosted a group of Grand Strand Regional Medical Center residents for a first-hand look at venomous snakes and the the various types of snake bites they can expect to see in the emergency room.

A copperhead snake may be the least of your worries in the woods, rivers and swamps of Horry County. Coral snakes, copperheads and various types of rattlesnakes are all out there, with enough venom to seriously hurt a human.

With the exception of the coral snake, most venomous snakes in the area are “pit vipers.” According to the SC Department of Natural Resources’ website, this means the snakes can detect heat with organs between their eyes and nostrils. This helps them attack warm-blooded creatures like humans and dogs.

“They inject venom, which causes tissue destruction, platelet loss, causes bleeding, it can cause death,” said Gerald O’Malley with Grand Strand Hospital.

Copperheads, while venomous and harmful, lack the deadly venom of some other snakes native to South Carolina. They are also maybe the most well known venomous snakes in the area.

Cottonmouths, also know as water moccasins, are often associated with southern swamps, like those in Horry County. This snake will stand its ground when facing a human, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The rattlesnakes in South Carolina are the eastern diamondback, timber and pigmy rattlesnakes. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is often considered to be the most deadly in North America and can be found across much of Horry County. That said, they’re considered to be extremely rare in the wild..

Coral snakes are a different from pit vipers and their venom typically stuns its prey. O’Malley said coral snakes are not as common on the area, so the hospital largely focuses on the pit vipers.

According to the state DNR website, cottonmouths and copperheads are the most common snakes in South Carolina, the others are uncommon or rare to find.

On Wednesday night, O’Malley was helping treat a copperhead bite. The following morning, he was leading a group of hospital interns around Alligator Adventures, allowing them to see up-close the venomous and dangerous animals.

He said the students will undoubtedly see patients with snake bites during their three-year residency at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center. He added that it is important doctors are familiar with how the snakes look in case they need to identify them based off a description from a patient.

“It’s their job have a great deal of familiarity not just with the snakes themselves, but also with the effects of the snake on the individual,” O’Malley said.

If bitten by a venomous snake, Thad Bowman with Alligator Adventures said to stay calm and seeking medical help. The people at Grand Strand Medical will be ready to help.

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