Most Virginia snakes are harmless. Still, some people find the presence of snakes alarming and do not want to discover one in their home or yard.
Mothballs are sometimes used by misguided people who believe that the balls will repel snakes. In fact, studies have not shown them to be effective for this purpose.
“Don‘t believe everything you read on the internet,” said Dr. Christopher Holstege, medical director of the Blue Ridge Poison Center at the University of Virginia Health System. “The use of mothballs as a snake repellent is an old wives‘ tale that just won t go away.
“When people sprinkle them under or around a house, it increases the likelihood that a child or a pet will find them and eat them. They look just like candy to young children. Also the toxic vapors can seep up into the living spaces, sickening all the people inside. “
Dr. Holstege added that in the warm months when snakes are active, the Blue Ridge Poison Center sees an increase in calls from people who have been exposed to mothballs because they are using them as repellents.
Fumes from mothballs can cause headache, dizziness, and irritation to the eyes and lungs. If swallowed, mothballs could cause symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, and painful urination with discolored urine.
If someone in your family swallows a mothball, or if someone has been breathing the fumes and now doesn’t feel well, call the Blue Ridge Poison Center for help—day or night.
The center operates a free 24-hour, seven-days-a-week confidential hotline staffed by specially trained nurses and doctors. This number is universal across the country; anyone can dial it, and the call is routed to the closest poison center: 1 (800) 222-1222.