Village resident Helen McFarlane, retired teacher and stalwart of the village walking group, is pretty sure she was bitten by an adder three weeks ago.
She told the Horrabridge Times: “It was a Monday evening and I was in the garden, working on a wild edge where it comes up against the field – all long grass and brambles and shrubs and tangles. I had gloves on for the brambles but I was wearing flipflops and my husband told me I really ought to put boots on.
“I said okay but I carried on for 10 minutes. Then something like an electric shock happened to my foot and made me jump back.
“I thought maybe it was a wasp and I went in and took a Piriton tablet because I react badly to wasps. I didn’t say anything because I knew it was my fault for not putting on boots. But I didn’t sleep a wink. My foot and calf were swollen and badly itchy.
“The next morning, I was going into Tavistock Hospital anyway, to visit a friend, and I took the opportunity to see a nurse. The first one I saw said it might be a mouse bite but then they got a picture and blew it up and another nurse said it was an adder bite; she’d seen quite a few. All I could see were little red marks.
“They gave me antibiotics for seven days, I suppose for any infection from the bite, and said to try and keep my leg higher than my heart, which was not easy seeing as my first move was driving home. But I tried because they said if it got any worse, I would have to go to Derriford and spend five days on an intravenous drip of whatever the antivenom is. It didn’t get worse but it didn’t get better either. After the first week, I went to my own doctor and he said it would probably take at least another week, after the antibiotics, before the pain went.
“That was about right. Now I’m more or less okay although I still have a feeling in my foot like I’m standing in nettles.
“I did go back to see the Tavistock nurses, next time I was at the hospital, and they said I’d had what they call a dry bite, meaning no serious amount of venom went in. I was lucky. You can suffer a lot worse for a lot longer, I’m told. From now on, I understand the boots rule for messing about in the countryside.”
The adder normally uses its venom to paralyse small prey like mice.
About a hundred people a year are bitten in the UK, according to the NHS.