*RESPECT FOR LOCAL RATTLESNAKES IS IMPORTANT FOR SUMMER SAFETY*
Using the snake’s color or pattern is not a reliable method of identification. Looking for the characteristic rattle on the tail is a good method, but sometimes the rattles are not there (lost).
Rattlesnakes have a powerful body, thin neck and a well developed triangular or arrow shaped head. While non-poisonous snake tends to look more like a snake a child rolls out of clay; the head, neck and body have more or less the same diameter. They do not share the distinct skinny neck of the rattlesnake. Be safe, be smart; leave snakes alone and avoid a potential bite.
WHAT DO I DO FOR INITIAL FIRST AID?
If a person is less than one hour from the nearest emergency room, initial treatment is relatively simple:
Try to calm the victim
Gently wash the area with soap and water
Apply a cold, wet cloth over the bite
Transport to the nearest emergency facility for further treatment
WHAT SHOULD NOT BE DONE AFTER SOMEONE HAS BEEN BITTEN?
Several don’ts are very important to remember and not only will not help the victim, but are dangerous too:
Don’t apply a tourniquet
Don’t pack the bite area in ice. Applying ice or a tourniquet can block circulation, which can result in gangrene and eventual loss of the limb due to amputation.
Sucking the venom from the wound can cause infection, making treatment more difficult.
Don’t let the victim drink alcohol.
Don’t apply electric shock.
HAVE AN EMERGENCY PLAN
If a person will be more than one hour from an emergency facility, their emergency snakebite plan becomes more complicated. They need to know the following information:
Where is the nearest hospital emergency room?
How long will it take 9-1-1 emergency responders to arrive on scene or for you to drive to the emergency room?
How close will they be to a fire department, park ranger, highway patrol, sheriff or other possible emergency responder?
If a person will be a great distance from emergency assistance, they should:
Always hike or camp with a buddy who will be able to go for help.
Take along a cell phone or other means of communication.
Notify people where you will be and always check in with them.
WHAT KIND OF SYMPTOMS DEVELOP AFTER A BITE?
A rattlesnake may strike without injecting venom, inflicting what is called a “dry bite.” Even though the victim is not poisoned, the bite can still become infected. All rattlesnake bites require medical attention in an emergency room.
If a rattlesnake injects venom into the wound a variety of symptoms develop: swelling, pain, bleeding at the site, nausea, vomiting, sweating, chills, dizziness, weakness, numbness or tingling of the mouth or tongue, and changes in the heart rate and blood pressure.
Other symptoms can include excessive salivation, thirst, swollen eyelids, blurred vision, muscle spasms and unconsciousness. Rattlesnake venom also interferes with the ability of the blood to clot properly.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR RATTLESNAKE BITE?
Severe symptoms can be life threatening and must be treated with antivenin, a prescription medication. Antivenin is given intravenously with fluids. Other therapy may include numerous laboratory test, antibiotics and an update on the tetanus shot, if needed.
IS A RATTLESNAKE BITE ALWAYS DEADLY?
Nationwide, there are over 800 cases of rattlesnake bites reported annually to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Of these reported bites, only one to two cases per year result in the death of the victim. Although complications such as possible blood clotting problems, allergic reactions to treatment, infection and shock may develop, the majority of rattlesnake bites are successfully treated with as little as two to three days of hospitalization.
WHAT CAN BE DONE T PREVENT A BITE?
Hands, feet and ankles are the most common sites for rattlesnake bites. Using some common sense rules can prevent most snakebites.
Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking in the rough. Always wear good quality hiking boots.
Try to stay on paths and avoid tall grass, weeds and heavy underbrush where there may be snakes.
Whenever possible, use a walking stick when hiking. That way if a person comes across a snake, it may strike at the stick instead of a leg.
Always look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks or firewood.
Always check carefully around stumps, large rocks or logs before sitting down.
When climbing, always look before putting your hands and feet in a new
Snakes can climb walls, trees and rocks, and are often found at high altitudes.
Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming. Rattlesnakes are excellent swimmers.
Baby rattlesnakes are poisonous! They can and will bite. Leave them alone.
Learn basic lifesaving skills and techniques.
Don’t handle freshly killed snakes. You can still end up being bitten.
Never tease a snake to see just how far it can strike. They can often strike up to several up to several feet.
Don’t keep rattlesnakes as pets. The majority of rattlesnake bites happen when people (usually drunk) tease or play with their “pet” rattlesnake.
Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone. Curious children (who pick up snakes) are often bitten.
Its always best to give snakes the right of way.
Remember; if a rattlesnake bites someone remember your emergency plan. Calm
the victim and transport them to the nearest emergency facility.
All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright © 1996 - 2004 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.