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Once You’ve Been Bitten by a Rattlesnake…

Ok, so now you’ve done it. You or one of your little friends has gone and gotten bit by a Rattlesnake. This could be one of the worst days of your life or, let’s face it, your last.

Unfortunately, the stuff you’ve been told your whole life about what you should do is now out of a date and more than likely the opposite of what you should actually be doing, so here’s a refresher…

1) If it’s safe to do so, try to get the make and model of the serpent that bit you, don’t get chomped a second or third time. Snakes can bite and continue to envenom their prey successively, which means the second bite can be just as bad as the first and they can keep going until they run out of venom.

2) In this case, it’s a good idea to go to the hospital no matter what you’ve ascertained the snake species to be, if it’s got a rattle, it’s poisonous. Wet rattles don’t make noise so if you got bit in a thunderstorm, you’re super unlucky. Go ahead and just print this up now and get in the car. Listen, tough guy, just go to the hospital, you’re wasting time.

3) Contrary to what you have been taught in the past, sucking out the poison with a snake bite extractor is not as effective as once thought. In fact, there are studies that support the idea that pulling the venom through more tissues of skin can increase tissue damage as opposed to securing the wound and getting to the emergency room.

4) Cutting the bite and trying to bleed out the venom is also wrong.  By the time you get around to doing that, it’s more than likely too late. The venom is already absorbed into the tissues. You’re just needlessly damaging more tissue.

5) Before the swelling sets in, and it’s gonna get nasty, remove all rings and/or constricting jewelry from the afflicted extremity and place them into the pocket of the person who has not been bitten. This will prevent the cutting off of circulation and as an added bonus, these items can be pawned while the victim is getting treatment and before the bill from the ER comes.

6) Now here’s the tricky bit, you’re going to need to immobilize the affected area and reduce as much blood flow as possible without cutting off circulation completely. You want to cut off the lymph circulation, not the blood. Think about having your blood pressure taken and you’re there. Tourniquets have been used in the past, but new research has shown that when you cut off the circulation, you amplify the likelihood of losing the limb.

7) Try to keep the limb below the level of the heart. This will slow down the circulation of the venom. Also, as any sane person with an ounce of sense would be hot-foot’n it to the hospital, try to do so in a calm and cool fashion. Getting your heart rate up is counterproductive to living through this ridiculous situation.

8) Before you plunge that limb into the cooler full of ice, don’t. Ice doesn’t deactivate venom and the last thing you need is frostbite. Are you on the way to the hospital yet? What’s wrong with you? You’ve been bitten by a rattlesnake! Sheesh! Are you new?

9) If you heard electric shocks stop the spread of poison, well I regret to inform you that’s ineffective too, but if you’re currently not on your way to the hospital, you may want to consider having Electro-shock Therapy later for different reasons.

10) Don’t drink alcohol. It deadens the pain, sure, but it also thins the blood and expands the blood vessels which will increase venom absorption. Plus there’s a reasonable likelihood that the liquid courage that you were drinking when you made the decision to go throw rocks at a snake is probably what got you in this mess in the first place.

So let’s be optimistic, glass is half-full kind of people…Let’s say you’ve made it to the ER. Congratulations! Being that you’ve got a potentially fatal injury festering on your arm, you get to jump to the front of the line, so there’s good news! All the people that slipped and fell on stuff or tried to dislodge something from underneath a running lawnmower can just line up behind you.

What’s next is antivenin. Antivenin can sometimes cause serum sickness which can sometimes cause fevers, joint aches, itching, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue, but it’s usually not life threatening unless there’s an allergic reaction. Traditionally, antivenin has been made from a sterile, non-pyrogenic preparation derived by drying a frozen solution of specific venom-neutralizing globulins obtained from the blood serum of healthy horses. Recently, advances in antivenin production do NOT involve ANY biological products (no horse blood; no horse serum; no sheep blood or serum; nor other biological products).

The doctor is going to clean the wound and look for broken fangs or dirt. Hopefully you’ve had a tetanus shot in the last five years, if not, you’ll have one now. You may also have a dose of antibiotics to prevent infection

You’re going to be there for a while. People are often monitored for several hours if not held overnight for observation. This will give you the opportunity to catch up on your network TV or take visits from people who normally annoy you.  You’re sedated so what better time to get that out of the way…it’s a win-win.

Hopefully at the end of this little adventure you’ll be wiser from the experience and completely intact.