Woman bit by highly venomous copperhead snake

Katryna Ritter was walking through her mom’s yard around 9:00 p.m. on Mother’s Day when she felt a sting on her foot. The puncture marks and what happened next made it clear she was bit by a copperhead snake.

“I mean; it was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever been in in my life… It’s every description of pain aching throbbing, stinging, burning, shooting all at once,” said Ritter.

She’d seen copperheads in her mom’s yard before but no one had ever been bit. That night she was walking through the grass barefoot because her shoes were wet from bathing her dogs. Ritter went to the hospital where she was closely monitored but around 3:00 a.m she was given anti-venom.

“So waiting six hours, eight hours, even 12 hours is not unheard of to make a decision to say look, okay this is swelling more than we’d like, this is causing more pain, we’re not getting good control with pain medications, elevation isn’t helping let’s give some anti-venom to them,” said Dr. Michael Beuhler,

Medical Director for Carolinas Poison Center.

The Carolinas Poison Center is located in West Charlotte and is the second busiest poison center for snake bites across the country. Last year, the center handled more than 660 snake bites across North Carolina, 69 in Mecklenburg County. The center handles about one call for snake bites per day, mostly all of them venomous, during snake season which runs through the warmer months, typically March through October.

“A lot of this comes down to being aware of your environment and keeping the area around where you go as clean as you can around your yard and making choices about your cover and what you’ve got and if you’ve got areas that you can’t see then don’t go walking in there,” said Dr. Buehler.

Ritter plays rugby and her team is number two in the nation and headed for the national championships. Her biggest issue is finding information on recovery. 

“I’m wanting to know like, how long is this going to take to recover to know if I can play in these championships,” said Ritter.

According to Carolinas Poison Center elevation and pain management are best and recovery could take months. Dr. Buehler said snakes hunt at twilight so it’s important to be aware of where your walking and use a flashlight to steer clear of them.

She said she’d seen copperheads in her mom’s yard before. Her shoes were wet from bathing her dogs so she was walking barefoot in the grass.

Dr. Beuhler said most snake bites do not require anti-venom however, if you are bitten or think you were bitten, call the Carolinas Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222, or visit their website. Dr. Buehler said they may be able to save you a trip to the emergency room.