Summer means snakes in Texas, and the best defense is, well, a good defense.

“The best thing to focus on is prevention,” says Joseph P. D’Addesio, M.D., emergency department medical director on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie. “Watch where you walk and don’t put your hand under a rock or log. Lots of snakes come out at night or in the early morning, so be especially careful then. If you see a snake, go the other way — don’t try to attack it.”

“While there’s always a chance you might accidentally step on a snake, wearing boots and long pants will lower your risk of a dangerous bite,” D’Addesio said.

Snakes in the pit viper family — rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins/cottonmouths — are poisonous. They have triangular faces with a little hole or pit between the nose and eyes. While you shouldn’t get close enough to check, these snakes also have fangs and horizontal grooves on the underside of the body.

The other type of poisonous snake found in Texas is the coral snake — the inspiration behind the short poem, “Red on yellow, kill a fellow. Red on black, venom lack.” If you see a snake with adjacent red and yellow stripes, it’s dangerous; red and black together is not.

Non-poisonous snakes can bite, but their bites are usually not dangerous.

“It shouldn’t hurt much. It might break the skin, but you won’t see swelling. With a poisonous snake you’ll have a localized reaction out of proportion to the bite, with a lot of swelling and ooze. The person will start to look or feel sick,” D’Addesio said.

If you’re bitten by a snake, head to the emergency department. Doctors can administer an antidote to the venom found in pit viper snakes, which are by far the most common type of bites in Texas. While antidotes for coral snake venom are not common, doctors can treat the bite to minimize its effects.

Don’t try to catch the snake to bring it to the hospital, D’Addesio said. Even a dead snake can reflexively move its head and accidentally land another bite.

For more information about Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie, visit www.BaylorHealth.com.