Monday, May 20, 2013

Rattlesnake Attack--All About It

A rattlesnake is a “pit viper,” so named because of the pits on the nose.

Western Diamondback Rattelsnake
These snakes are commonly found in the Midwest and Western United States. As the weather moves into the high seventies, rattlesnakes become active and often seek out heated surfaces to warm themselves. These snakes may be encountered by the unsuspecting hiker, rancher, or in some rural areas, close to the house sunning on the driveway.
A coiled rattlesnake will shake its tail, making the hissing rattle the snake is known for. Because of the length and strength of the body, the snake can launch (ie, strike) at a distance of several feet, making the strike zone larger than might be obvious.

About 75% of bites contain some venom. 25% are so-called “dry” bites with little or no venom, but these are still potentially dangerous.
Bites by vipers are painful and tender. They can become severely swollen, bleed and blister. More systemic effects of the venom include changes in the victim’s ability to clot.
A bite by any snake—venomous or otherwise—should be treated by a medical professional. Even non-venomous bites can contain teeth and/or dirt, and be at risk for infection.
Identification of the snake is important, but not at the risk of another individual being bit. Rattlesnakes can continue to bite and inject venom until they deplete their supply.

Calling ahead to the Emergency Department helps them to prepare and obtain antivenin if needed.
Transport the victim to the hospital, keeping the heart above the level of the wound if possible. Remove rings or other potentially constricting items.

Do not cut into and/or attempt to “suck out the venom.” This includes not using older snakebite kits that contain suction devices.
Do not use ice on the bite site.
Do not attempt to sterile/neutralize the bite with alcohol. This increases tissue damage and increases venom absorption.
Do not apply a tourniquet. This can lead to limb-threatening damage.

The Emergency Department will examine the bite and make a determination if antivenin should be given. Some locations will stock antivenin if rattlesnake bites occur with any frequency. Some zoos or other animal exhibits that feature rattlesnakes have the antivenin on hand.
Antivenin can cause its own set of complications, including fever, joint and muscle aches, fatigues and swollen lymph nodes.
Antibiotics are often given to prevent infection, but have no effect on the venom. All snakebite victims should receive a tetanus booster if none has been given in the last five years.
Blood clotting abnormalities can continue for a few weeks after a bite. It’s important to let any healthcare professional know about the history of the bite.

PREVENTION: Wear boots and long pants when hiking. Be aware of your surroundings.

Questions? Comments?
Kelly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it.
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