Rattlesnakes might be an interesting species among the snakes, being quite easily recognizable by their rattle but they are also some of the world’s most dangerous and poisonous creatures. They are known to belong to the group known as the pit vipers which incidentally means that they have a highly specialized apparatus when helps them in injecting poison more easily during a bite. Also, these species of snakes have been known to have a pair of highly sensitive innervated pits that help them sense their prey based on their body temperature alone. They are equally capable of seeing in the daytime as they are during the night.
They are found in several parts of the world, be it in Asia or Africa or even United States. In the United States alone statistics have shown that there are almost 8000 people victims of rattlesnakes alone, every year even though almost 80% of the bites on humans are considered as ‘dry bites(1)’ which actually describes into being non-venomous bites in defence of the snake only and only about 5 of them are fatal enough to be the cause of death.
They are mostly found in the Southern part, in the dry and desert regions and have been known to grow to the length of more or less 6 to 8 foot. These snakes might be found in five distinct types- the Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake, the Diamondback, the Prairie Rattler, the Timber or Banded Rattlesnake and the Sidewinder. The young snakes have been known to have fully functional venom glands(2), right from the time of their birth. They are known to infest mostly prairie lands, marshes, desert areas or even forest floors.
Most cases of snake bites have been noted during trips to the wilderness in areas where a snake manifestation(3) is known. Which is why, if you are planning a field trip or are going trekking, camping or even swimming in ponds and lakes near such areas, it is crucial that you take the necessary precautions.
- Never go alone. If you are bitten or even hurt, there would be no one to help you during an emergency.
- Make sure to always wear heavy protective clothing.
- Do not stick your hands under rocks or inside ledges as there are the places that most snakes inhabit.
- Wear very sturdy footwear that would protect you from bites even if you step on a snake accidentally.
- Do not in any case try to catch venomous snakes, if you are not properly trained and have experience in doing so. Even in such cases, make sure to wear protective and sturdy gloves that will safeguard you from any accidental bites.
Also, it is important that you ascertain that the snake that has bitten you was a rattle snake and not some other venomous snake. Rattle snakes are normally recognized by the rattle-like formation at the tip of their tail. But young snakes might not have as much of a rattle as a older one since each section of the rattle develops after each skin shedding of the snake. Also, rattlesnakes have triangular shaped heads that are generally slightly larger than their bodies that are think and dull in appearance. These snakes are also known to travel with their tails pointed upwards which is why; they are easy to recognize.
If incidentally, it is a rattle snake that has bitten you; the bite needs to be considered as an emergency, irrespective of the fact, whether it is a dry or a wet bite. The signs and symptoms might take hours to develop which is why; it is necessary that you try and recognize them before it’s too late.
- Look for puncture marks, there might be two or even one.
- There might be a burning sensation where the skin has been punctured.
- Check for discolouration of the skin as well as rise in body temperature.
- Check for pain and/or swelling of any kind in and around the bitten area.
- Check whether your pulse rate is normal and you do not have difficulty in breathing.
- As time passes, you might start feeling increasingly weak.
- Vision problems are also common occurrences as are nausea and vomiting(4).
- Occurrences of seizures(5) are not unknown.
- You might feel increasingly drowsy.
Some of the above mentioned symptoms may or may not occur which is why; there are certain protocols that need to be followed if you have even a fleeting doubt that you might have been bitten by a rattle snake.
- For starters, get away from the snake as quickly as possible and at all times, keep calm. The more you move or get agitated, the more the venom defuses with your blood causing damage faster.
- Make sure to wash the affected area with soap and water vigorously.
- Do not apply any kind of ice packs since they have been found to make matters worse.
- If you need to move around, make sure to have a rest for at least 20-30 minutes so as to allow the venom to localize and arrest its spread.
- Call onto your area’s emergency number and till help arrives; lie down but make sure to keep the affected area lower than the level of your heart.
- It is a bad idea to try and suck out the venom as most folk remedies might suggest since studies have suggested that it is more of a time wastage than anything as in doing so only about 0.04% of the venom might be sucked out but could result in a lot more blood loss.
- Do not in any condition cut open the wound since that might result in further tissue damage(6).
- About 2 inches above and below the puncture marks, tie loose constricting bands around the limb, making sure not to tie them above or below the joint levels. These should be made of a wide and soft material and is not too tight, so as to help restrict the spread of poison too quickly through the lymphatic flow. Keep readjusting the tightness of the bands in accordance to the swelling.
- Do not in any condition use a tourniquet since that would only result in excessive damage of the tissue around the wound.
- If you have been bitten in your limbs, make sure to immobilize it immediately and if possible, try putting a splint around the limb to keep it steady.
- Shock is one of the foremost effects of any accident, and a snake bite if obviously serious enough to make you go into shock immediately. Try and keep it at bay while at the same time preserving your body heat.
- Remove any kind of jewellery or clothes or even shoes that might constrict the affect areas since there is a high chance of inflammation will occur in and around the area almost immediately.
- If you see that the swelling is getting worse, try to reach medical care as fast as possible since only the antivenin(7) has been found to give any kind of relief from a rattle snakes bite.
- Also, before being treated to any kind of antivenin, make sure that your physician determines whether or not you are allergic to the stuff.
It is absolutely crucial that any snake bite victim should be taken to immediate medical care since the longer the poison is inside the body of the victim, the higher is the risk of tissue damage which might even result in amputation.