It's the season for rattlesnakes: Here's what to do if you're bitten

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Now is the season snakes start slithering out of hibernation, but the reptiles aren't the only ones.

"The spring is our busiest time for snake bites because that's when people are really enjoying the great outdoors. They are out on the hiking trails, enjoying this fantastic weather," said Dr. Rais Vohra, who is the medical director at California Poison Control System.

He explained that each year, hundreds of people are bitten by rattlesnakes and sent to the hospital. Dr. Vohra expects this year will be no different, especially since rain and wildfires have caused so much damage.

"We know that a lot of the places that naturally have snakes may be different this year. The snakes may have moved to a different area," he said.

Mark Halvorsen, with the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, warns rattlesnakes can be found in areas like Woodward Park. He added - be sure to stay on marked trails.

"Rattlesnakes prefer to be in high grass and dense brush where they can hide from potential predators as well as provide an area they can hunt for prey," Halvorsen explained.

Officials urge hikers to be prepared, know basic first aid, and have extra supplies like water, gauze and a walking stick.

However, if you encounter a rattlesnake and it bites you, get to the hospital as soon as possible.

Dr. Vohra said you should not bandage it up tight because it can cause more damage. He recommends using a split to isolate the area and wrap it loosely.

"So if you put a tourniquet on a leg that already has a lot of venom in it, the tourniquet will cut off blood flow and delay healing. It will also just trap the venom and it will actually go deeper and deeper and that will make the damage worse at the site of the bite," Dr. Vohora said.

He added it's also do not try to suck the venom out.

Dr. Vohra explained rattlesnake bites can start to blister in a few hours and in a few days swell, causing discoloration. So experts say get to the hospital as soon as possible to receive an anti-venom.

There are other snakes that act like rattlesnakes. Halvorsen said above all, just let nature be.

"If you don't know what it is, leave it alone," he explained.

Dr. Vohra mentioned some good news, about 1 in every 5 bites is a dry bite meaning no venom was released.
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