Boy, 7, rushed to hospital after poisonous snake attack

Connor Smith in North Tees Hospital with his mum, Tracie O'Brien
Connor Smith in North Tees Hospital with his mum, Tracie O'Brien

A SCHOOLBOY was rushed to hospital after being bitten by a venomous snake on a family day out.

Connor Smith was treated with anti-venom drugs at the University Hospital of North Tees, after the adder’s bite made his hand and fingers swell and turn black, and the poison began travelling up his arm.

The adder found by Connor Smith

The adder found by Connor Smith

The seven-year-old, of Irvine Road, Hartlepool, was on a family outing at the popular countryside spot, Sheep Wash, in Osmotherley, North Yorkshire, on Sunday, when he was bitten.

He and his cousin Matthew Lake, 11, came across the snake – which was about 10 inches long and about as thick as a ball-point pen – near a stream.

Believing it was a grass snake, they picked it up and their nana, Margaret O’Brien, 63, of Leamington Parade, Hartlepool, even found a little box for the kids to put it in and look at.

But after about 15 minutes the brown-patterned snake suddenly reared up and first bit Matthew on the middle finger of his right hand, before turning to Connor and biting him on his right-hand index finger.

While Matthew’s finger swelled up slightly, Connor’s finger “ballooned” within seconds to more than double the size, and within half-an hour the swelling had spread to his wrist and his skin started to turn black.

Connor’s 36-year-old mum, Tracie O’Brien, who also lives with Connor’s dad Paul Smith and daughter Laila Smith, five, took her son to see doctors at the University Hospital of Hartlepool, before being transferred to North Tees, in Stockton.

Doctors were initially reluctant to give Connor the anti-venom drugs due to their possible side effects. But when the poison began to spread further up his arm they administered the drugs.

Connor is now recovering and should be released from hospital in the next couple of days.

Matthew, whose parents Debbie and David Lake, both aged 42, were at the beauty spot with him, was given antibiotics for the bite to his hand.

Margaret, a retired Kwik Save supervisor who is married to Connor’s grandfather Michael O’Brien, 62, said: “We’ve all been worried sick. If Connor’s mum hadn’t have taken him to hospital when she did, God knows what would have happened to him.

“We all thought it was a grass snake because it was only small but it must have been a baby adder. We just want to warn people to beware and to know the difference between adders and grass snakes because we wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else. A lot of bairns play there because it is a lovely place, but it’s been very scary for us.”

She added: “You wouldn’t think there could be poisonous snakes in Britain and this is supposed to be the only one.”

The family has warned people to be aware that grass snakes are green and yellow-coloured, while adders are brown and black with a black cross on their heads.

Medical director for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust David Emerton said: “The important thing to remember about snake bites is that you should never try to suck the venom out or rub anything into the wound.

Also, never apply a tight bandage or tourniquet around the bitten limb to stop the spread of venom as this does not help and can cause swelling, even if no venom has been released by the snake.

“Adder bites can be easily treated in hospital with anti-venom, if required. Stay calm and try keep the part of the body that has been bitten as still as possible to prevent the venom spreading around the body. Remove any rings, watches or jewellery in case of swelling and go to your nearest accident & emergency department straight away.

“Thankfully, Connor’s parents did just that and we are delighted to see that he is on the mend.”