Snake antivenom: Which hospitals have it and how much it’ll cost you

Summer is height of rattlesnake bite season

Rattlesnake (KXAN Photo)

LLANO, Texas (KXAN) — Central Texas is prime breeding ground for rattlesnakes and summer is the height of snake bite season.

Britt and Brenda Meek love the Hill Country view from their backyard in Llano. That is until a couple of weeks ago when they spotted something they never wanted to see.

“I was so scared and screamed so loud,” Britt said. “It was right by my left foot.”

The couple spotted a rattlesnake longer than they care to remember and it wasn’t the first rattlesnake sighting on their property.

“We’ve seen nine or 10 little bitty ones,” Britt said, “little babies, but that’s the first time we saw one that big.”

What concerned the Meeks the most is what to do if one of them were to be bitten. They questioned whether to go to straight to the emergency room or make a 911 call. The answer wasn’t so clear to Brenda, who was seeing conflicting suggestions during her internet search.

Most large hospitals have anti-venom stocked and ready to go, said St. David’s ER physician. (KXAN Photo)

“We don’t get good cellphone coverage out here to call 911,” said Brenda. “It told you to go to the nearest ER or find the hospitals in your area that carry the antivenom. But, I couldn’t find anything.”

St. David’s ER Physician, Dr. Ryan McCorkle, told KXAN that the best option is to wait for medics.

“If you’ve been bitten by a snake and you’re transported by 911, you’ll be transported to a place that has antivenom,” he said. “If you’re driving yourself, that’s another variable in the equation of did you drive to a place that doesn’t stock the anti-venom, and that would be time lost.”

Most rattlesnake bites happen in June, according to the Texas Poison Center Network. And last year, rattlesnakes struck more than 200 times statewide. Dr. McCorkle said most large hospitals have the anti-venom stocked and ready to go. He also warned: don’t try to make the situation better after a bite.

“No tourniquet. Don’t make a cut over it and suck the poison out of it,” said Dr. McCorkle. “All of those old school methods have been proven not to work. It’s get to the ER and get the antivenom.”

Antivenom can save your life, but it doesn’t come cheap.  Each vial costs about $2,500 and treatment requires a few vials on average. One professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says it is not uncommon for medical bills to total $50,000 or more after a bite.

St. David’s, Seton Healthcare and Baylor, Scott and White Hospitals in the Austin-metro area tell KXAN they should have the antivenom in stock.

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