Can a Rattlesnake Bite Kill You? 10/10/10
"Fifty to 70 percent of snake bites managed by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center were provoked by the person who was bitten -- that is, someone was trying to kill, capture, or harass the animal."
These days a snake bite is no longer a question of do I feel lucky, more of what can I do to improve my chances of survival. Within Arizona alone there are seventy different species of snakes, seventeen of which are rattlesnakes. Though not all of these snakes are venomous, one fact remains true, they will all bite you if they feel threatened. Rattlesnakes have no reason to attack humans for the simple fact that they can’t eat us. Majority of recorded bites are caused by an individual either provoking the snake or just simply walking to close, think of them as old men that just want to eat, sleep, and be left alone. Fifty to 70 percent of snake bites managed by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center were provoked by the person who was bitten — that is, someone was trying to kill, capture, or harass the animal. From the some two hundred recorded snake bites in Arizona alone , only five to six people die from the bite. This percentage has fallen since 2000, thanks to medical advances and better educating the outdoor population as to what steps to take in case of a bite. Best piece of advice would be, just avoid them altogether if you can,
Among the most venomous and largest species of these rattlesnakes would be the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. This snake is responsible for the majority of bites and fatalities in Arizona and California. A few definitive characteristics of this snake would be its flat triangular head, tan and brown patches, and of course the rattle on the tail. Chances are if you are close enough to see the snake and trying to identify it, well you are too close. Younger breeds of this snake may not have fully developed their rattle so be observant of that, for younger snakes don’t necessarily have the ability to control how much venom the release during a bite. Not quite as common, but definitely important to avoid, is the Mohave rattlesnake. The venom can affect the brain or spinal cord in many different ways. The Mohave is usually very green in color and has wide, light bands at the base of the tail. Again, if you can see the bands at the base of the snake’s tail, you are way too close. One very important factor to remember would be that snakes are cold blooded so they need sunlight to keep warm. Many times you will see these snakes out sun bathing on a rock or a log, otherwise they are generally on the move hunting for their next meal. During the colder months snakes will seem as if they disappear, much like bears they go into hibernation until it starts to warm up again.
Surviving a snake bite is very possible but it is important that proper steps are taken in caring for a bite. Number one would be if you are bit, you need to seek medical attention ASAP! As for the meantime in between you getting to the hospital, taking the proper steps will greatly increase your chances of survival. Keep calm. Restrict movement, and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom. Clearly this may a problem if you are alone because the only way you can get to an emergency room is to hike out. You should carry a pump suction device. The old cutting of cross shaped cuts in the wound and sucking advice has long been discredited. Remove any rings or constricting items because the affected area may swell. Create a loose splint to help restrict movement of the area. If the area of the bite begins to swell and change color, the snake was probably poisonous. Obviously if you are alone you must walk out with the injury, unless you can contact someone by cell phone or satellite phone. After a bite if you have the ability to make a call, you should contact your local poison control center, they may have more tips on what you should do.
- Apply a tourniquet.
- Apply cold compresses to a snake bite.
- Cut into a snake bite with a knife or razor.
- Try to suck out the venom by mouth.
- Take stimulants or pain medications.
- Take anything by mouth.
- Raise the site of the bite above the level of your heart.
If these steps are followed properly than chances are you will be fine until you can get to the hospital. Just remember snakes aren’t looking to go around and bite humans, but they will if they feel threatened. Generally speaking, don’t mess with a rattlesnake and you don’t have to worry about falling into the category of people that die every year from a bite.