The West Virginia Poison Center shares tips on how to stay safe while exploring

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With warmer weather and higher chances of rain, many of West Virginia’s wildlife has started to pop up in all areas and due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, more residents are taking advantage of the outdoors.

However, this will cause more people to be coming in contact with natural hazards, such as wild mushrooms and snakes. The West Virginia Poison Center has released information that will help anyone venturing out on country roads, stay safe.

Wild Mushrooms

Morel mushroom
Courtesy of WV Division of Tourism

Wild mushrooms may look like the ones enjoyed on salads and pizzas, but they are not guaranteed safe to eat. While some wild mushrooms are edible, others are poisonous and possibly fatal, according to the poison center. The symptoms of mushroom poisonings vary depending on the type of mushroom eaten.

Edible mushroom? Poisonous mushroom? Officials explained that it can be hard to tell. Mushroom identification can be difficult, complex and should only be left up to a trained mycologist (mushroom expert).

The West Virginia Poison Center advises against picking and eating any wild mushrooms.

If you or someone you know has consumed a wild mushroom, the ingestion should be reported immediately to the West Virginia Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. Callers should not wait for symptoms to appear.

Venomous Snakes

West Virginia has two kinds of venomous, or poisonous, snakes: the timber rattlesnake and northern copperhead.

To prevent snake bites, the poison center suggests that people should:

  • Avoid walking at night in wooded areas or high grass without adequate lighting.
  • Avoid high grass and underbrush at any time unless wearing thick boots up to the the knee.
  • Look before reaching into rock ledges, tall grass, or other places you cannot see into.
  • Avoid sitting or playing on log piles.
  • Never approach or kill snakes unnecessarily.

If bitten by a snake, the poison center emphasizes that the person immobilizes the bitten area and limit use. They also said that any restricting items such as rings or bracelets should be fully removed so that the area can be washed with soap and water.

The bitten person should be transported to the nearest medical facility as quickly as possible and to call the poison center at 1 (800) 222-1222.

However if bitten by a snake, the poison center stated that someone should not apply ice, apply a tourniquet, cut and suck the bitten area or attempt to catch or kill the snake. A dead snake can still bite.

Many are wishing for some time outside after being cooped up in the house to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but during snake season (April to October) the poison center is advising that people should not go hiking without a buddy. Social distancing can still be implemented, but it is just safer to have someone close by, in case of an emergency due to cell phones not always working in the West Virginia wilderness.

Those who wish to learn more about poison precautions, the poison center website has more information on how to stay safe.

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