Snakes Are Terrifying. Show Your Kid How To Avoid Them.

Step 1: Don't try to outrun a snake.

by Elijah Brumback
Originally Published: 
Two boys looking at a snake on the ground outside with their dad.

Your kid isn’t crazy, people have always been terrified of snakes. Just ask Indiana Jones — he’s a certifiable badass and still hates them. Still, snakes aren’t all bad; they eat rats, which is good. But the big ones, like boa constrictors, can also eat a child, which is bad. Many of them also contain deadly poisons and really aren’t that afraid of you, which is, again, bad. So here’s a little knowledge that you can arm your kid with should anything slither across their path, which is good!

Rule Number 1: Don’t Try To Outrun A Snake

Not because your kid can’t — they probably could! The very fastest snake, the Black Mamba, can slither at about 12 MPH, and a truly scared human (even one with short legs) could probably exceed that. No, the reason your kid doesn’t want to outrun a snake is because they almost certainly don’t have to. With some very rare exceptions (looking at you, Central American Bushmaster), snakes won’t chase people, so when your kid encounters one, they should do the same thing they do when they catch mommy and daddy in their “special hug”: back away, slowly and quietly.

Snakes Are Everywhere (Except On A Plane)

Snakes are found on almost every continent, and there are venomous ones in every U.S. state, save for Alaska. Most snakes aren’t venomous, but a snake bite from a non-venomous snake can still cause bad infection if not treated properly. Also — and try to frame this for your kid in a way that doesn’t freak them out — some snakes live in trees and others can swim. As for Sam Jackson, he was just super unlucky.

Things To Definitely Not Do If Bitten:

  • Suck the venom. (It doesn’t even work in the movies.)
  • Cut the wound to drain it. That’s just asking for an infection.
  • Ice it down. That makes getting the venom out harder.

Things You Definitely Should Do If Bitten:

  • Try to keep the bite below heart level.
  • Tightly wrap a bandage a couple inches above the bite, but don’t completely cut off circulation with a tourniquet.
  • Stay calm, breathe slowly and evenly, and try to stay still to slow spread of venom in the bloodstream.
  • Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Get help.

Snakes Prefer Hiding To Open Areas

Snakes are like junior high schoolers — they mostly prefer to hang out in dank, dark places. Tall grass, brush piles, holes in the ground, pretty much anywhere your kid can’t see their feet while walking. The exception is when they decide to get a little sun because all God’s creatures like to tan (duh). It’s not a bad idea for your kid to use a long stick when walking in snakey areas, which can be used to lift brush or prod the far side of rocks and roots to alert snakes to their presence and avoid stepping on them. Just make sure they know it’s not Whacking Day.

The Nighttime Is Prime Time

Snakes are most active during the nighttime, so your kid should know it’s best to try and stay in well-lit areas and on well-worn paths with good visibility. Cutting through the woods might be the fastest way to a friends house, but in snake country, it’s definitely not smartest way.

Identify What’s Poisonous In Your Area

If you live in Snake Country, grab a field guide that covers the reptiles in your area, especially the poisonous ones, so your kid can learn how to identify the threat level associated with each possible encounter. A good guide will also break down the kinds of habitats where they’re likely to find the real bad SOBs.

Boots Are Better Than Nothing

A well made pair of boots is a good first line of defense against snakes in the grass. If you can fit them with some tiny Doc Martens, it may be enough to prevent a smaller snake from puncturing skin. If it’s a constrictor that’s wrapping itself around your neck, the boots do nothing.

Dead Ones Are Still Deadly

Tell your kid that while you may have chopped that snake’s head off with a hatchet, Evil Dead-style, don’t touch it. Even recently deceased snakes are dangerous and can continue to slither and bite.

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