Af­ter child’s en­counter, par­ents look to make oth­ers aware of ven­omous snakes

4-year-old en­coun­ters cop­per­head

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AN­DREW CEPHAS acephas@somd­ Twit­ter: @CalRecANDREW

A nor­mal, play­ful sum­mer day for a 4-year-old Lusby boy took an abrupt turn Aug. 27 af­ter a cop­per­head snake bit his leg while he was re­triev­ing a ball in his back­yard.

Isaac Bar­rett was play­ing with his brother, sis­ter and friends in his back­yard when the ball they were play­ing with rolled into the woods. Bar­rett — who was wear­ing shorts and crocs — walked in the woods and came out screaming “in­con­solably.”

“No­body ever saw the snake. Ev­ery­one thought that he got into some thorns. That’s what the kids told us,” Melissa Bar­rett, Isaac’s mother, said as she de­scribed the scrapes and punc­ture marks. “Pretty quickly they started to swell and bruise and the swelling spread and was turn­ing a lit­tle dark.”

Af­ter ob­serv­ing the marks on the in­side of Isaac’s leg, slightly above the an­kle, Melissa looked up cop­per­head snake bites on the in­ter­net, as the snake is com­monly found in the sur­round­ing area of their Lusby home. She no­ticed the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the on­line photos and her son’s wounds, at which time she took him to Calvert Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal for treat­ment.

Melissa said she never han­dled a poi­sonous bite be­fore and ini­tially didn’t know what to do.

“I tried to call 911 but they said they couldn’t give me any med­i­cal ad­vice over the phone, so I called the hos­pi­tal and they were able to di­rect me to [the emer­gency room],” she said. “They told me don’t tie any­thing around it be­cause he al­ready has the venom in him. [They said] just bring him to the hos­pi­tal.”

Bruce An­der­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mary­land Poi­son Cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Phar­macy, said the best thing to do af­ter a snake bite is get to the emer­gency room for di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment. An­der­son said most peo­ple don’t know how to iden­tify var­i­ous snakes, and thus won’t know if the snake that bit them is poi­sonous un­til proper di­ag­no­sis.

“Even if it is a ven­omous snake you got bit­ten by, the an­i­mal can choose to en­ven­o­mate you or not, mean­ing they can bite you with­out in­ject­ing venom, so you don’t know if you need treat­ment. The way you figure that out is get into the emer­gency room. They’ll be able to keep an eye on you, make sure you’re safe and mon­i­tor for de­vel­op­ment of symp­toms,” An­der­son said, in­di­cat­ing that most Mary­lan­ders bit­ten by a poi­sonous snake are vic­tims of cop­per­heads.

An­der­son said cop­per­head venom usu­ally pro­duces a lot of tis­sue de­struc­tion, which leads to pain and swelling at the bite site. If the bite is bad enough, the swelling can progress through­out the body.

Based on the swelling, punc­ture marks and color of the wounds, per­son­nel at Calvert Memo­rial be­lieved Isaac to be the vic­tim of a cop­per­head snake bite, which they said was not un­com­mon in the county. The only other poi­sonous snake na­tive to Mary­land is the tim­ber rat­tlesnake, which is less com­monly found. Isaac be­gan re­ceiv­ing anti-venom at Calvert Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal be­fore be­ing trans­ported by am­bu­lance to the Pe­di­atric In­ten­sive Care Unit at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity’s Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

At Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter, Isaac re­ceived anti-venom treat­ment for more than 24 hours. He re­ceived his last dose of anti-venom the morn­ing of Aug. 30 and was re­leased from the hos­pi­tal later that day. Al­though his leg was still sore and he couldn’t walk that day, Melissa said he has greatly im­proved com­pared to the mo­ments fol­low­ing the bite.

“I think that the hos­pi­tal did a re­ally good job and they seemed to be re­ally knowl­edge­able,” Melissa said, in­di­cat­ing both hos­pi­tals were in con­tin­u­ous con­tact with the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of Poi­son Con­trol Cen­ters as a treat­ment plan for Isaac was de­vel­oped.

An­der­son said it’s very com­mon for hos­pi­tals and emer­gency rooms to con­tact the Mary­land Poi­son Cen­ter for ad­vice and tips, adding that the cen­ter serves the vast ma­jor­ity of Mary­land.

“Snake bites are a rel­a­tively un­com­mon thing. No spe­cific emer­gency medicine physi­cian is go­ing to have a huge amount of ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing with snake bites and we hear about 50 to 100 cases ev­ery year,” An­der­son ex­plained. “We have a pretty good data­base of ex­pe­ri­ence and a lot of highly trained and spe­cial­ized folks staffing the phones 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The phone num­ber to con­tact the cen­ter is 1-800222-1222. This will get callers in con­tact with the clos­est poi­son con­trol cen­ter to wher­ever the phone was orig­i­nally set up.

As of Thurs­day, Isaac Bar­rett was “run­ning and jump­ing and full of the dick­ens,” his mother said, ex­plain­ing that his leg is a lit­tle sore to the touch, but not slow­ing him down.

“He says now that he’s been bit­ten by a snake, he’s not scared of any­thing ex­cept spi­ders, be­cause they are creepy,” Melissa said.


Isaac Bar­rett, 4, of Lusby was bit­ten by a cop­per­head snake in his back­yard Aug. 28. He is cur­rently re­cov­er­ing af­ter be­ing treated at Calvert Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal and Ge­orge­town Univer­sity’s Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter.


Pic­tured is the tim­ber rat­tlesnake, one of two poi­sonous snakes na­tive to Mary­land.

Pic­tured is the north­ern cop­per­head, one of two poi­sonous snakes na­tive to Mary­land. It can be iden­ti­fied by its di­a­mond head and cat-like pupils.

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