Even baby rattlesnakes possess dangerous venom as soon as they hatch
California Poison Control System (CPCS) has received 20 rattlesnake bite calls statewide since April 1, and this does not include those who have been bitten and get emergency care instead of calling. This high number in a single month should act as a warning for California residents who hike, camp or enjoy desert living. With warm weather, rattlesnakes are more likely to be found on hiking trails and sunning in rural areas. Even baby rattlesnakes possess dangerous venom as soon as they hatch. Most bites occur between the months of April and October.
“The odds of being bitten by a rattlesnake are small. About 300 cases are reported to CPCS annually in California, with additional cases managed by physicians and hospitals,” says Dr. Rais Vohra, Medical Director for the Fresno/Madera Division of CPCS.
Dr. Vohra says the symptoms of a rattlesnake bite may include extreme pain and swelling at the location of the bite; excessive bleeding; nausea; swelling in the mouth and throat making it difficult to breathe; lightheadedness; drooling; and even collapse and shock in rare cases.
“If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, immediate medical attention is critical,” Dr. Vohra said. “Severe or even life-threatening symptoms may occur within minutes after the bite, or in other cases may begin after couple of hours. In either event, your best bet is to get to a hospital as soon as you can.” He added that the following steps are important for any rattlesnake bite:
•Get immediate medical attention.
•Do not apply ice, do not use a tourniquet or constricting band, do not try to suck out the venom, and do not use any device to cut or slice the bite site.
•Keep calm, do not run and keep the affected extremity elevated during transport to a medical facility.
Rattlesnakes do not always make a rattling sound, so someone can be standing next to a rattlesnake and not even know it. Children need to be carefully supervised outside, especially in wooded and desert areas where snakes tend to live. Many veterinarians now carry rattlesnake anti-venom and rattlesnake vaccines for dogs and other pets that are bitten. Contact a veterinarian for more information.
Call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 (number is the same in all states) for questions about poison encounters. Trained pharmacists, nurses and other providers are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are available. Get weekly tips about safety by texting TIPS to 20121 for English or texting PUNTOS to 20121 for Spanish. Follow CPCS onFacebook and on Twitter @poisoninfo. CPCS is part of the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and is responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.