The rattlesnake is one of the most common venomous snakes in the Americas. With 32 known species of rattlesnakes that range from as far north as Alberta, Canada to Central Argentina, a rattlesnake is a reptile that lives in a wide array of habitats. Because snakes live in such diverse climates and because of their sheer numbers, humans are bitten more often by rattlers than any other type of snake. In the United States, that means an average of 7,500 people become rattlesnake victims each year. Rattlesnakes generally do not attempt to bite people on purpose unless provoked or surprised. In fact, rattlesnakes generally will retreat if they are aware of the presence of humans. However, over half the rattlesnake bites that occur are to humans who were aware snakes lived in the areas they frequented, yet did nothing to avoid getting bit. Wearing Snake Gaiters that protect from the top of your boot to your knee, or Snake Chaps that protect your full leg from boot to thigh, is your single best defense. Be prepared before going into a rattler's territory (woods or desert) and you won't have to worry.
If you do happen to get bit, seek immediate treatment. The single most important aspect in surviving a rattlesnake bite is getting immediate medical treatment. The most common treatment is anti-venom serum which is administered by medical professionals in hospitals. If not treated in the first few hours, heart failure could result. Children in particular are more vulnerable since the venom per unit of body mass is greater. With proper treatment, recovery from a rattlesnake bite is relatively quick and has no long lasting effects. However, the longer it takes to get the proper treatment, the longer the recovery time and the greater chances for permanent damage. Having a First Aid Kit on hand is always a good idea.
On your way to the hospital or other medical clinic:
Immobilize & Keep Bite Below Heart Level: Most people are bitten on the lower leg or foot. The leg should be placed in a splint or immobilized and kept below the level of the heart in order to keep the poison from spreading faster.
Remove Restrictive Clothing: Roll up pants legs or remove socks in bite area, but also remove or loosen all rings, bracelets, buttoned shirts, etc. in case of swelling.
Do Not “Suck” Out the Poison: Contrary to what is seen in many of the films and TV shows, no attempt should be made to suck out the poison. Generally speaking, this action does little good and may only exacerbate the injury.
Keep Calm: While getting bit can be a traumatic experience, remember that 20% of all rattlesnake bites carry no poison. Staying calm keeps the heart rate down and slows the progress of the venom through the body.
Common Symptoms of Rattlesnake Bite:
- Severe Pain
- Nausea & Vomiting