SAN DIEGO, April 24 – It is rattlesnake season in San Diego. Most bites from the four species of rattlesnakes that live in Southern California occur between the months of April and October. That’s why experts from Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and San Diego County Animal Services are teaming up to provide important information on how to respond when a rattlesnake bites, and the mistakes many people make that can actually make things worse.
A rattlesnake bite can produce painful swelling, bruising, tissue destruction, bleeding problems, and, in rare cases, can be fatal. There are about 300 rattlesnake bite cases reported in California every year, according to the California Poison Control System (CPCS). About 25 percent of bites are “dry” meaning no venom in injected. Although complications may develop with or without venom, most rattlesnake bites are successfully treated with as little as two to three days of hospitalization.
Children can be especially vulnerable; their natural curiosity often leads them to places where snakes may lay quietly, such as under rocks and in bushes. It is important to carefully supervise children outside, especially in wooded and desert areas where snakes tend to live. Also important to remember: rattlesnakes do not always make a rattling sound.
In case of a snake bite, the CPCS recommends the following:
• Call 911 for emergency assistance immediately.
• Try to keep the victim calm.
• Immobilize the affected area.
• Remove watch, rings, and other jewelry that could constrict swelling.
• Gently wash the area with soap and water.
• Apply a cold, wet cloth over the bite.
• Apply a tourniquet.
• Pack the bite area with ice.
• Cut the wound with a knife or razor.
• Use your mouth to suck out the venom.
• Let the victim drink any alcoholic beverages.
To prevent snake bites, wear long boots and long pants when hiking, making sure to stay on trails and away from underbrush and tall weeds. Do not touch or disturb a snake, even if it appears dead. Carefully inspect logs or rocks before sitting on them. Never hike alone in remote areas. Be sure to teach children to respect snakes and leave them alone.
Southern California is home to four types of rattlesnakes: the Southwestern Speckled, the Southern Pacific, the Sidewinder, and the Red Diamond.
About Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego:
Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, the largest children’s hospital in California based on patient admissions, is a 442-bed pediatric care facility providing the largest source of comprehensive pediatric medical services in San Diego, Southern Riverside and Imperial counties. Rady Children’s is the only hospital in the San Diego area dedicated exclusively to pediatric healthcare and is the region’s only designated pediatric trauma center. In May 2012, U.S. News & World Report ranked Rady Children’s among the best children’s hospitals in the nation in all ten pediatric specialties the magazine surveyed. For more information, visit www.rchsd.org and find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.