La Honda Rattlesnake Alert -Prevention and First Aid
"My dog cornered a rattlesnake in my driveway this afternoon, right in front of our carport. Fortunately, he is smarter than the average dog and kept the
appropriate distance and was not bitten. This is the first time in 19 years of living in La Honda that we've seen a rattler on our property (top of Memory Lane.) Just a reminder that this is the time of year and we do live in their habitat." From Heather (message #8027)
…and…" Our dog was bitten a month or so ago. I was up in the pasture at our
ranch and noticed that she was crouched down when normally she would be running around. I went over to check her and there was a drop of blood on her nose. I could only find one hole but from experience I suspected it was a
By the time we got down to the barn area, there was a big bump where I had
seen the blood. I rushed her down to Adobe Animal Hospital (it was a
Sunday) and by the time I got her there, her face was swollen about four times its normal size. Her heart rate was normal and except for the pain of the bite, she was doing really well. They immediately put her on morphine, Benadryl and fluids and I was able to take her home 24 hours later. She's a Border Collie mix and quite fast for her old age. I think she was hit but didn't get a full nose of venom. I never saw the snake. This was early in the morning in an open pasture. So, yes, be very careful." From Pam McReynolds (message #8028)
Additional information about rattlesnakes and bites, from http://www.calpoison.org/public/rattler.html
"The Western rattlesnake (also sometimes listed as Northern Pacific Rattlesnake)… has an acute sense of smell and an ability to sense temperatures higher than its own surroundings. Skin color may vary from dark gray, olive, yellowish-brown, to brown or black, with hexagonal,
oval, or nearly circular blotches with well-defined light borders. Generally active from April through September, the rattlesnake may emerge earlier and range later in warm weather. It is generally inactive or in a state of hibernation from November through February. During the spring the snake
prowls in the morning and late afternoon. During summer the snake alternately basks and seeks shade. During the hottest months, the snake becomes nocturnal, seeking mice, voles, gophers, and even cottontail rabbits. This species mate in spring and bear young anytime from August through October. Baby rattlesnakes are just as poisonous as adult snakes. If threatened, the rattlesnake may coil, rattle, and raise its upper body…if surprised, it may lunge up to several feet, striking without any warning behavior whatsoever. Not every strike delivers venom. Occasionally the snake will inflict what is called a "dry bite." Regardless, every rattlesnake
bite needs medical attention. Symptoms: If the rattlesnake does inject venom into a victim, a variety of symptoms develop. Most bite victims experience some or many of the following: swelling, pain, and bleeding at
the site of the bite sweating chills, dizziness, weakness,numbness or tingling of the mouth or tongue, changes in the heart rate and blood pressure, salivatio n, thirst, swollen eyelids, blurred vision, muscle spasms,
unconsciousness, improper blood clotting ability
TREATMENT: Severe rattlesnake envenomation symptoms can be life-threatening and must be treated with antivenin. Antivenin is a prescription item that is not available to the general public because it is derived from a horse serum which frequently causes major allergic reactions. It is given intravenously along with fluids. Numerous laboratory tests may be required, as well as a tetanus update, if needed. Although possible allergic reaction, infection, and shock may develop, the majority of rattlesnake bites are successfully treated with as few as 3 or 4 days of hospitalization.
INITIAL FIRST AID: Every family member should be made aware of the following snakebite emergency plan of action. If you are less than one hour
from the nearest hospital emergency room, initial treatment is relatively simple:
DO try to calm the victim
DO gently wash the bite area
with soap and water
DO remove any watches, rings,
etc. which may constrict swelling
DO apply a cold, wet cloth over
the bite if possible
DO transport safely to the nearest emergency facility for further treatment
There are also several DONT'S to remember:
DON'T apply a tourniquet
DON'T pack the bite area in ice or ice water
DON'T cut the wound with a knife or razor
DON'T suck out the venom by mouth
DON'T let the victim drink alcohol
These treatments will NOT help the victim; furthermore, they can actually be dangerous. Improper applications of ice or tourniquet can block arterial circulation which can result in gangrene or an eventual loss of the limb.
Cutting can cause excessive bleeding, and sucking venom from the wound can cause infection, making treatment more difficult… …If you will be farther than one hour from emergency assistance, it is a good idea to carry a cellular
phone and a Sawyer Extractor snakebite kit, which can be purchased at most sporting goods stores. Each kit contains a syringelike device that uses reverse pressure to extract venom from fang wounds without the hazards of wound bleeding or contamination.
Read kit directions before snakebite occurs. After using the kit, continue to seek the nearest medical facility.
PREVENTION While some bites result from deliberate attempts to harass or capture a rattlesnake, many bites result from surprise encounters, with hands, feet and ankles as the most common sites. Many snakebites can be prevented by using a few common sense rules:
1. Identify rattlesnake areas before visiting. Be aware that they are not always confined to rural areas. Rattlesnakes have been found near urban areas, in river or lakeside parks and golf courses, for example.
2. Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking in the rough. Always wear hiking boots.
3. Stay on paths and trails. Avoid tall grass, weeds, and heavy underbrush here snakes may hide.
4. Use a walking stick when hiking. If you come across a snake, let it
strike the stick instead of you.
5. Always look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks, or firewood.
6. Always check carefully around stumps or logs before sitting down. Shake out sleeping bags before use.
7. When climbing always look before putting your hands in a new location. Snakes can climb walls, trees, and rocks. They are frequently found at high altitudes.
8. Never grab "sticks" or "branches" while swimming in lakes and rivers. Remember rattlesnakes are excellent swimmers.
9. Baby rattlesnakes are just as poisonous as their parents. They can and do bite. Leave them alone!
10. Never hike alone. Always take along a buddy who can get help in an emergency.
11. Learn basic lifesaving methods.The Red Cross and various
hospitals offer regular classes.
12. Don't handle a freshly killed snake; you can still be bitten.
13. Don't tease a snake to see how far it can strike.
14. Don't keep rattlesnakes as pets. Many bites occur when people,
usually intoxicated males in your 20's, tease their "pet" rattlers.
15. Do give rattlesnakes the right-ofway.
16. Teach children early to respect
snakes and to leave them alone.
Curious children who pick up snakes are often bitten. If you or a member of your family have the misfortune to be bitten,remember your plan. Calm the
victim and transport to the nearest emergency facility for treatment. It is
extremely unlikely for a Northern Pacific rattlesnake bite victim to die.
Statistically speaking, more people actually die from bee or wasp sting
reactions. With the right care, most people survive their bites quite well."