Red-eared slider turtles are pet turtles that can measure anywhere from 7 to 12 inches once they reach adulthood. They have dark green shells and touches of yellow and orange throughout their bodies. These cute turtles are great pets but they may pose some dangers -- especially if you don't know much about them.
Red-eared sliders may bite -- and the bite can be quite painful.The bite will probably only hurt but may be more damaging to young kids with small fingers. Keep in mind that red-eared sliders won't bite "just because." In most cases, a bite is a result of an animal being mishandled or hurt.
Red-eared sliders may carry salmonella -- although they might not get sick from it or show any symptoms. As a result, it's possible to get salmonella just from touching and handling the turtle and her habitat -- such as cleaning the tank or washing the rocks or food bowls. Salmonella is a bacterial disease that causes diarrhea, severe stomach pain and fever. The only way to know if your red-eared slider is carrying salmonella is to have her tested by a vet. Treatment is available if she tests positive.
Who's At Risk
The CDC recommends not keeping turtles in homes where kids under five years of age or elderly people live. That's because children and the elderly have a lower resistance to infections and are at a higher risk of getting sick from exposure to bacteria. People who are ill or have a lowered immune system could also be at danger. People with diabetes and liver disease may also be at risk. Pregnant women should not handle turtles.
The best way to avoid salmonella is to always wash your hands with antibacterial soap after handling your red-eared slider. This will prevent the spreading of bacteria and keep you and your loved ones safe. If you take your turtle out of her habitat, wash any surfaces she comes in contact with. Don't touch your face -- and especially your mouth -- after handling a turtle and before washing your hands. To avoid bites, always grab your turtle gently by placing your thumb on top of the shell and the other fingers below. Never grab your turtle by the head, tail or legs.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.