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Real Poison Center Case

The poison center received a call from the mother of a 12-year old boy who was playing outside his home when he was bitten on the leg by a snake. The boy described the snake as having a brownish, grayish pattern and stated it was curled-up in a striking position next to his bike. The specialist on the phone recommended that the boy be taken to the nearest hospital right away. At the hospital, the doctor noticed that the swelling was minor and there were no other symptoms other than pain and redness at the site of the bite. It was determined that the snake was non-venomous after the boy’s father captured the snake and called the poison center back to describe it. The boy was held for observation for a few hours and was released later that evening.

The snake that was described over the phone was likely a bull snake. It looks similar to a rattlesnake in pattern, colors, and behavior, but it does not have the elliptical eyes or a rattle at the end of the tail. Bull snakes can be more aggressive that rattlesnake but do not have venom. Bull snakes can be found in the same environments as rattlesnakes an can change the shape of their head and shake their tail to mimic a rattlesnake. It is important to note that one should never try to capture a snake. A visual description can be helpful, but only if it can be done safely. Never wait for symptoms to appear; call the poison center or seek medical attention right away if someone is bitten by a snake.   

Poisonous Plants

Summer is here and so are those pesky plants. Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are everywhere. They grow in wooded places across Texas. Poison Ivy and poison oak grow as vines or shrub and poison sumac is usually a shrub or tree. They say "leaves of three, leave it be" but that only applies to poison ivy and poison oak. Poison Sumac leaves grow in clusters of 7-13 leaves with one by itself at the end.

To protect yourself, consider the following:

  • Keep your skin covered to avoid contact with these plants.
  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves, and closed shoes if you're in an area where they grow
  • Urushiol [yo͝oˈro͞oSHēôl] begins to stick within minutes. If you know you’ve made contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac, wash the area with lukewarm water and soap ASAP.

Poisonous Snake Highlight

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

There are four kinds of venomous snakes in Texas: coral snakes, copperheads, cottonmouths (water moccasins) and rattlesnakes. In this newsletter, we will focus on the infamous Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.

In Texas, there are 10 species of rattlesnakes. The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake easily rates as one of the most dangerous snakes in the U.S. This species causes more fatalities than any other snake in the United States. It's venom is considered to be Hemotoxic, which means it affects the blood and damages the tissue.


  • Heavy-bodied snake
  • Triangular-shaped head
  • Two dark diagonal lines on each side of its face running from the eyes to its jaws
  • Dark diamond-shaped patterns along its back 
  • The tail has black and white bands just above the rattles
  • Adults vary between 32-74 inches (81-188 cm) on average


  • Intense pain
  • Edema & swelling
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Numbness & weakness
  • Increase heart rate, vomiting & confusion


  • Call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for instructions on all snakebites.
  • All snakebites should be examined and treated by a physician
  • If bitten, note time of the bite, remove jewelry or other items that might constrict swelling, and remain calm.
  • Do not try to capture the snake.
  • Do not cut the wound and try to extract the venom.
  • Do not use ice or a tourniquet.
  • Do not take pain relievers or other medications without first seeking medical advice. Do not drink alcohol.

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