On June 28, Renata Teper-Gniadkowska took her 11-year-old son Michal to Friars Park in Shoeburyness, Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
After arriving at the park at around 1pm, Michal began playing in the children’s play area before the pair walked through the park towards the eastern lake.
Michal ran ahead to play with his football when he ran through a patch of long grass.
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It was then that he was bitten on the leg by a snake, with Renata admitting that her young son hadn’t initially realised that he’d been bitten.
It was only when they returned home later that his leg became more painful.
“It was a very stressful afternoon for us”
Renata said: “At first Michal didn’t even know he had been bitten, but he said it got painful when we got home.
“It was a very stressful afternoon for us.
“We have no idea what snake it was. It could have been a grass snake.”
The 40-year-old added: “We got home and I Googled what a snake bite looks like and it was clear it was a snake bite.
“I called 111 and they told me to contact my GP.”
Renata believes that the council should cut back the long grass so that possible dangers such as snakes can be seen more easily.
She said: “The long grass should really be maintained better. If it wasn’t so long, it might not have happened.
“During lockdown, the wild animals have had the parks very much to themselves, but now things are starting to get back to normal, the paths are becoming busier.
“The snake was probably more scared of Michal then he was of it.”
“Avoid taking kids or dogs to fields or places with high grass”
After calling the GP on Monday (June 29) morning, Michal was prescribed with antibiotic cream and told to take paracetamol to treat the bite.
The ordeal has not put Michal or Renata off revisiting the park. However, they said that they will ‘be more careful’.
Renata has now warned other parents in the area to be vigilant about wildlife when taking their children to local parks.
She added: “If you can, avoid taking kids or dogs to fields or places with high grass because you never know what could be hiding in the grass – especially now the weather is a lot warmer.
“Even if your child doesn’t have any symptoms and they have been bitten, take them to a doctor or call 111.”
What types of snakes are known to live in the wild in the UK?
There are only three types of snake that are found in the wild in the UK – with the adder being the only venomous snake.
These three snakes are adders, grass snakes and smooth snakes.
Adders are grey or reddish-brown, with a dark zig-zag shaped stripe down their back.
Grass snakes are usually green, with dark spots down their sides and yellow and black bands around their neck.
Smooth snakes are usually grey or brown with a dark pattern. The pattern down their backs are lighter and less zig-zag shaped than on adders.
Most snake bites in the UK are not serious. But it’s important to get all snake bites checked as soon as possible.
What to do while you wait for help?
- stay calm, most snake bites in the UK are not serious and can be treated
keep the part of your body that was bitten as still as you can
lie in the recovery position if you can
take paracetamol for any pain
try to remember the colour and pattern of the snake to tell the doctor
take off any jewellery and loosen clothes near the bite, in case it swells
What not to do:
- do not go near the snake, or try to catch or kill it
do not try to suck or cut the poison (venom) out of the bite
do not tie anything tightly round the part of the body where the bite is
do not take aspirin or ibuprofen, as they can make bleeding worse
More medical advise on snake bites can be found here.
“We urge visitors to be vigilant to what is around them”
Councillor Dec Mulroney, from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, responded to the incident by urging members of the public to stay safe when visiting parks across the seaside town.
However, he also encouraged the public to still enjoy visiting parks with the reassurance that sightings of snakes are “extremely unusual”.
He said: “We encourage biodiversity in the borough by providing a variety of habitats in our parks and open spaces for wildlife, including areas of naturalisation and long grass which provide important habitat for many species and benefit the local environment.
“Snakes can be found across the UK. However, they are rarely seen by people and sightings in Southend are extremely unusual, as they tend to move away as you approach.
“Due to lockdown more sightings of wildlife have been reported and the currently hot weather means that reptiles such as snakes and lizards may be more active.
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“While snake bites are unpleasant, they remain extremely uncommon in the UK. Bites from grass snakes are not venomous. Bites from our other native species, adders – which can typically be identified by the a criss-cross pattern along their backs – are venomous but are rarely dangerous if the professional treatment is administered at hospital.
“We would encourage people to enjoy our parks and green spaces and to look out for the native wildlife that lives in them.
“However, we urge visitors to be vigilant to what is around them when out and about and respect the environment.
“We hope the child in question recovers quickly from their wound and is not too traumatised by the experience.”