Rattlesnake bites: What to do — and what not to do

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DENVER (KDVR) – A 6-year-old boy tragically died earlier this month after he was bitten by a rattlesnake while on a trail at Bluestem Prairie Open Space in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Now people are asking, “What do I do if I get bitten by a rattlesnake?”

Rattlesnakes usually avoid humans, but about 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, resulting in 10 to 15 deaths, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

What to do if a rattlesnake bites you

According to Denver Health, anyone bitten by a rattlesnake should take the following steps:

  • Remain calm.
  • Seek immediate medical attention by dialing 911 or calling your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Keep the bitten arm, leg, or body part at or slightly below heart level.
  • Note the time the bite happened. Avoid trying to capture or kill the snake, but take down details of its color and shape so you can describe it. If you can do so safely and without delay, take a photo. These can help medical experts determine the correct course of treatment.
  • Remove all tight clothing or jewelry.

What not to do if a rattlesnake bites you

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against the following for those bitten by rattlesnakes or any venomous snakes:

  • Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it. Never handle a venomous snake, not even a dead one or its decapitated head.
  • Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten; get medical help right away.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet.
  • Do not slash the wound with a knife or cut it in any way.
  • Do not try to suck out the venom.
  • Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
  • Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.
  • Do not take pain relievers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen).
  • Do not apply electric shock or folk therapies.

The USDA added that frenetic, high-speed driving places the victim at greater risk of an accident and increased heart rate. If the doctor is more than 30 minutes away, keep the bite below the heart, and try to get to the medical facility as quickly as possible.



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