Be careful where you step—and what you step on. Most people would agree that anything that brings more children and teens outside is usually a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. The Pokemon GO phenomenon is still going strong, and a beneficial side effect of the mobile app’s runaway hit is its ability to draw users outside in droves. However, many officials have warned that groups of players walking around glued to their smartphones could be a danger to themselves, especially in areas with wildlife. An 18-year-old in Flower Mound, Texas, was rushed to the hospital last week after he was bitten by what experts say was likely a copperhead. The teen was reportedly distracted by the Pokemon GO app when the incident occurred.
“It was funny listening to him talk about how EMS guessed he was bit playing the game, and chatted with him about it,” CeCe Clemens, a spokesperson for the Medical Center of Lewisville, told the Star-Telegram. “I don’t think mom thought it was so funny.”
18-year-old Lane Smith later told reporters that he was with a friend while playing the augmented reality mobile game, which uses GPS to find the ubiquitous Pokemon. One of the main draws of the app is to hunt down and capture rare creatures, which means players have to stay mobile. Unfortunately, this could sometimes lead distracted players into dangerous situations. Smith said he was headed toward a Pokestop, a location that offers items and bonuses to players, when he stepped on a strange looking stick. That “stick” instantly bit him on the toe—it was a bad day to be wearing flip-flops.
“The first thing I did was text my friends,” Smith told WHIO, but that cavalier attitude soon turned into concern after he experienced shooting pain up and down his leg.
Smith called his mother, who picked him up at home and drove him to the hospital. As with most snake bites, copperhead venom is best treated as early as possible. Not only does this offer the best chance for recovery, but it also reduces the potential damage to muscle or bone tissue. Copperhead bites are rarely fatal and the snake generally considered to have the weakest venom of all pit vipers.
In this case, only one of the snake’s fangs broke the skin and delivered a relatively minor amount of venom. Hospital staff were able to treat it without the aid of antivenin entirely.
Smith is now warning other players to learn from his mistake and to beware of their surroundings—something the app also reminds players of every time they use it. Although popular with players, Pokemon Go has drawn no shortage of controversy for leading users to places where they shouldn’t be while playing on the app, such as hospitals, private businesses, and even government agencies. Officials say that players should always stay safe, travel in groups, steer clear of roadways, and try to avoid playing at nighttime in low-visibility areas.