Walking is becoming an increasingly popular hobby, combining as it does physical and mental health benefits with social and often educational activity.
But while the countryside is without doubt enticing, there are also a number of dangers to be aware of – and it is essential to know what to do should the worst happen.
The National Poisons Information Service says it recorded 396 incidents in which people were bitten by adders in Kent, Surrey & Sussex, between 2014 and 2016.
Half of the cases where people were bitten happened when they picked up adders, the only venomous snakes living wild in the countryside.
Adders usually keep well out of sight but are more active in the warmer months prompting the NPIS to urge anyone planning on spending time outdoors to take care, respect any wildlife they come across and leave snakes alone.
Professor Simon Thomas, Director of NPIS told The Looker: “Because they are well camouflaged people can accidentally tread on them, which is when they can bite. They can also bite if picked up”.
“Sometimes the venomous adder can be mistaken for non-venomous species such as the grass snake or smooth snake, making people think it is safe to pick them up.”
“The bite can have very nasty effects, especially in smaller children – so it’s best to take care when out walking, wear appropriate footwear for the terrain and do not handle any snakes.”
Snake bites do not always lead to the injection of venom into the wound but even if no venom is released there is still a risk that the wound may become infected. On the whole the anxiety and trauma caused by a snake bite is often the greatest health concern, experts say.
When an adder bite does deliver venom it can cause local pain, tenderness, swelling and bruising which can spread. If a child is bitten, these effects may be seen across the whole body.
Although almost all poisonings from adder bites result in relatively minor effects, more serious cases can involve kidney failure in children, abdominal pain, nausea, , vomiting, heart problems, coma and even death, although fatalities are thankfully very rare.
The NHS advises anyone who is bitten by an adder to keep calm and visit their nearest A&E department. Treatment usually involves observation in hospital. Patients may be admitted for 24 hours so their blood pressure and general health can be monitored.
Professor Thomas adds: “Although almost all poisonings from adder bites produce relatively minor effects, the illnesses they lead to can be extremely unpleasant.
“And it’s worth remembering that the effects from these bites can be much more serious, though this is rare. Because of this our advice is simply to do what you can to minimise your exposure. Do go out and enjoy the countryside. That’s really important.
“But if you are going somewhere with large areas of open space, just think about what you’re doing and most importantly of all, if you come across an adder, or indeed any snake or reptile, give it the respect it deserves as a wild animal and leave it alone.”