With Spring comes hidden dangers: how to handle a snake bite

Alec Nolan Image
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
Keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes throughout Central CA
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California Poison Control is teaming up with the Fresno Chaffee Zoo to help keep you safe on the trails this summer.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As we welcome warmer spring weather, it's also important to be on the lookout for hidden dangers.

On Tuesday, health officials and animal experts joined together for National Poison Prevention Week to keep you on high alert for rattlesnakes.

Rattlesnakes are waking up from hibernation, as females give birth to baby rattlers across the valley.

So, California Poison Control is teaming up with the Chaffee Zoo to help keep you safe on the trails this summer.

If you're out on a trail, you're most likely going to run into a Northern Pacific rattlesnake. If you come across one, the zoo says to focus on two things -- leave the animal alone, and walk away.

And should you fall victim to a bite, medical experts like Dr. Rais Vohra urge you to stay calm and act fast.

Dr. Vohra works as the Medical Director of California Poison Control.

"Call 911, get to a hospital as soon as possible because the sooner you get antivenom, the better your prognosis," Dr. Vorha said.

He says many people think a tourniquet will help treat the wound, but it's actually a step in the wrong direction.

"That's actually not a very good idea," Dr. Vohra said. "A tourniquet is going to cut off blood flow and when you cut off blood flow to these injuries, that actually can worsen that injury."

Instead, he says a splint wrap can help stabilize a limb, and keep the venom from spreading.

And although rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal, it's important to start treating the bite as soon as possible.

"If you can get into that hospital and get that antivenom started within that first hour or two, that's really the best we can do," Dr. Vohra said. "Because it takes about an hour to prepare that antivenom."

Hiking in the daytime with better visibility can also increase your chances of avoiding danger.

Advice that hikers Samantha Prosser and Madison Olsen can speak to.

"Last summer, I actually had a friend get bit by a rattlesnake," Prosser said. "We went kind of late in the evening so we couldn't really see the floor as well, and they stepped on it and it bit them."

And even after hearing about the encounter, Prosser's hiking buddy is confident she could handle a similar situation.

"To stay calm, hopefully," Olsen said. "It is a very serious thing, you don't know how they're going to act or if they're going to bite again, so I'd like to stay calm during that situation."

For now, the two tread with caution, but won't be stopping their time on the trails anytime soon.

California Poison Control observes National Poison Prevention Week annually.

This year's theme, "Here for the Ages," emphasizes that poison exposure can happen to people of all ages and that the Poison Hotline is here to support people in every decade of life.

California Poison Control can guide children and adults to be safe from a variety of poisons, including snakes, spiders, button batteries, mushrooms, medicines, vaping, edibles and many other dangerous indoor and outdoor poisons.