Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include first aid guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which were last reviewed by that agency in Oct. 2022.
DENVER (KDVR) — Temperatures are warming up and summer is almost here. With that, rattlesnakes have emerged from hibernation.
Rattlesnakes usually avoid humans, but about 8,000 people are bitten by venomous
snakes in the United States each year, with 10 to 15 deaths, according to the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration.
What to do if a rattlesnake bites you
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is what you should do if someone is bitten by a snake:
- Try to see and remember the color and shape of the snake, which can help with treatment of the snake bite.
- Keep the bitten person still and calm. This can slow down the spread of venom if the snake is venomous.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Dial 911 or call local Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
- Contact your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
- Apply first aid if you cannot get the person to the hospital right away.
- Lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart.
- Tell them to stay calm and still.
- Wash the wound with warm soapy water immediately.
- Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
What not to do if a rattlesnake bites you
The CDC also gives the following guidance on what should not be done if someone is bitten by a snake:
- Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it. NEVER handle a venomous snake, not even a dead one or its decapitated head.
- Do not wait for symptoms to appear if bitten, get medical help right away.
- Do not apply a tourniquet.
- Do not slash the wound with a knife or cut it in any way.
- Do not try to suck out the venom.
- Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
- Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.
- Do not take pain relievers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen).
- Do not apply electric shock or folk therapies.
The CDC also advises that if you see a snake in your home, you should immediately call the animal control agency in your county.