Rattlesnake bites on the rise throughout California – How to prevent and respond to “critical emergency”

A bite from a rattlesnake, or any venomous snake, can be a very serious medical emergency and if a person or animal is bitten, it is critical they seek immediate medical assistance.

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A rattlesnake bite can be a very serious medical emergency and it is critical to seek immediate medical assistance in the event of a suspected bite.

In the event of a suspected snake bite, the victim must get to an emergency room right away, as a rattlesnake bite can lead to serious medical issues and complications, including amputation and even death.

Although snakes tend to avoid humans and bite only as a last resort when they are threatened or surprised, when a venomous snake does bite someone, it is imperative to immediately contact 911.

According to the American Red Cross, snakebites are treatable, and although around 7,000 people are bitten by snakes in the United States every year, fewer than five of those victims die.

Despite the dangers of being bitten, snakebites are preventable and UC Davis Health has provided six simple tips on how to avoid being bitten as well as how to respond to a suspected rattlesnake bite.

A Rattlesnake soaks up the afternoon sun in central Montana.

Six tips to prevent rattlesnake bites:

1. Wearing boots and long pants to help block rattlesnake venom.

Wear boots and long pants when hiking to help block rattlesnake venom.Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking in areas where you cannot clearly see where you are placing your feet. Wearing hiking boots and long pants offer an extra layer of protection from unexpected encounters with a rattlesnake.

2. Stay on trails when hiking, away from underbrush and tall weeds.

Snakes can rest almost anywhere that is hidden from view and enables them to hide from predators, avoid extreme temperatures and hunt for prey. Because trails tend to have fewer hiding places for snakes, they offer a level of protection for you. Brush offers protection for snakes. Stay on trails to avoid potentially disturbing a rattlesnake in hiding.Children hiking on a trail keeping a safe distance away from a snake

3. Do not touch or disturb a snake, even if it appears dead.

Snakes use their hidden position to strike and kill their prey by surprise. Don’t mistake their apparent stillness as a safe opportunity to investigate. Even freshly killed snakes may still be able to bite.

4. Always look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks or firewood.

Since rattlesnakes are often well-camouflaged and wait quietly for prey, they can be difficult to see. Piles of rocks or logs, patches of dense shrubs, and expanses of tall grasses are just few of the places where snakes may seek shelter. Carefully inspect logs or rocks before picking them up or sitting down to avoid accidentally disturbing a rattlesnake.

5. Never hike alone in remote areas.

Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.Having a hiking partner is important to help in a crisis, especially in a situation where you or your hiking partner is bitten by a snake. If safe to do so, have your hiking partner photograph the snake so that identification can be made to aid in treatment.

6. Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.

Curious children who pick up snakes are frequently bitten. Teach them always to give snakes the right of way to prevent snake bites.

Protect dogs and other animals from being bitten by a rattlesnake.

Ask your veterinarian about rattlesnake anti-venom and vaccines, and immediately contact your veterinarian if your animal has been bitten.

If bitten by a rattlesnake:

Get immediate medical attention, as severe or even life-threatening symptoms may occur within minutes after the bite, or in other cases may begin after couple of hours.

Rattlesnake bites can produce extreme pain and swelling at the location of the bite, excessive bleeding, nausea, swelling in the mouth and throat making it difficult to breathe, light-headedness, drooling, and even collapse and shock in rare cases.

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. Constricting blood vessels near a rattlesnake bite can lead to amputation.

Wash the wound with soap and water, and remove wristwatches, rings or anything constrictive.

Keep calm, do not run and keep the affected extremity below heart level until you can be transported to a medical facility.

Visit US Davis Health for more information about how to prevent snake bites and how to properly respond to a rattlesnake bite emergency.


Contact the writer: [email protected]

Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.