We recently got a blog comment on my piece about rattlesnakes from Bryan Hughes, out of the greater Phoenix area. He runs a service called Rattlesnake Solutions, LLC. There are way more rattlers in that dessert environment than we have in the Sierra, so I defer to him. They specialize in snake education and snake relocation services. They have been able to humanely move over 900 snakes to a better place than residential areas.
According to the CDC, there are about 8,000 venomous snake bites in the United States each year, and less than 10 of those victims die. So statistically, it’s not a major worry compared to freeway driving. Bryan’s advice is you do get bit, get to a hospital as fast as possible. First, try your best to keep calm and just remember the statistics: in almost every case, you will live. Keeping calm keeps your heart-rate down, slowing the venom’s progression through the body.
Remove any jewelry to allow for swelling. Keep the bite area below your heart, if possible. Do not cut, suck, or try to bleed venom from the wound. This does not help, and causes additional stress and injury to the area. Do not let anyone try and use a suction device on the wound. A study by Loma Linda University School of Medicine shows that these devices also do not help and can actually make the situation worse. Do not apply a tourniquet. While it is true that a properly applied compression bandage may be of benefit with some bite situations, attempting to tie off the flow of blood can make a bite that may not result any long term damage into an amputation situation or worse. Do not apply ice or home remedies – basically, leave the bite area alone completely.
If you are far from help, out hiking or otherwise, it may be best to send someone for help. If Call 911 and let them tell you how to proceed. If you cannot call, notify anyone nearby of the situation and let help come to you. If you are alone, get to a trail and calmly make your way back to where there are people who can help. Do not run – it is important to keep your heart rate down and make your way to other people. Stick to trails so that in the event that you lose conscienceness, people will find you and be able to get help.
Thanks and a tip of the hat to Bryan.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “You know, you can touch a stick of dynamite, but if you touch a venomous snake it’ll turn around and bite you and kill you so fast it’s not even funny.” – Steve Irwin
MrHalfDome™ – Rick Deutsch – www.HikeHalfDome.com