About Rattlesnake Bites

Rattlesnakes, Copperhead snakes, and  Cottonmouth water moccasins are all pit vipers. They get their name from the heat-sensing “pits” in front of their eyes. Pit vipers inject venom through hollow fangs when they bite their victims. Their venom consists of digestive enzymes and spreading factors.

Who gets bitten by rattlesnakes?

The people most commonly bitten by rattlesnakes are people who keep them as pets and handle them, and people intoxicated by alcohol. It is also possible to startle a snake hiding in the brush, causing it to bite. Children and animals are also more likely to be bitten.

What happens if I get bitten by a rattlesnake?

Less than 10% of rattlesnake bites are “dry bites,” so if you are bitten by a rattlesnake you need to get medical attention immediately!

Signs And Symptoms Of Rattlesnake Bites

Local effects

Local effects of rattlesnake bite include pain, swelling, bruising, and blisters forming around the bite site.

General effects

General effects include metallic taste, chest pain, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, bleeding, muscle tremors, weakness, numbness, dizziness, passing out, fast heart rate, low or high blood pressure, and, rarely, allergic reaction the venom.

Treatment of rattlesnake bite

If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, it is a medical emergency! Call 911 if your are in an area with emergency services. Minimize physical activity. If you are bitten on an arm or leg, remove any tight clothes or jewelry and splint the arm or leg. Do not elevate the arm or leg above the level of the heart. Take a photo of the snake, but do not try to capture the snake and bring it into the Emergency Department, ER or ER Specialists Urgency Center. We don’t want to get bitten either! Also, do not try to suck the venom out of the wound!

In the Emergency Department, you will have blood work done, receive an IV, and will need to have antivenom. Rattlesnake bites are usually admitted to the Intensive Care Unit so you can be watched for changing symptoms from the envenomation and possible reaction the the antivenom.

Recovery

Since the development of antivenom, death from rattlesnake bite is less than 0.28%, and 2.6% without antivenom.  About 10% of patients will have long term injury from snakebite.

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