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Rattlesnake Season is Here

Submitted by Therese Williams, John C. Freemont Hospital

Rattlesnakes Awaken from Hibernation in Mariposa and Yosemite National Park, How to Avoid a Snake Bite 

MARIPOSA – Spring is here, and the rattlesnakes are awakening from hibernation.  Outdoor enthusiasts are eager to get out in their gardens or on the trails to enjoy a hike, a bike ride, and other activities.  Sometimes, a rattlesnake may also be out in your garden or out on the trails joining you, therefore, you need to be alert.

The deadly venomous snakebite from the rattlesnake is common in Mariposa. Snake encounters typically peak in spring and summer since that is when you are outdoors more often, and snakes are most active in the outdoors.

Rattlesnakes, usually are quite easy to identify:

  • Triangular-shaped head
  • Spotted body
  • Distinctive rattle on the tail

    Photo Courtesy of Therese Williams

You should know how to respond if you or someone you know is bitten by a rattlesnake.

Dr. Smith, John C. Fremont’s Emergency Physician, says “There are no tools for rattlesnake bites if you get bitten. The best first aid is to have your cell phone and car keys with you. Call an ambulance if you are unable to drive or drive yourself if you can.  I always encourage people to get to the closest emergency room as soon as possible.  Given the number of rattlesnake bites we see every year at John C. Fremont Hospital Emergency Room, we maintain an ample supply of antivenom that is replenished through the season.”

In 2021, 9 snake bites were treated successfully at John C. Fremont Healthcare District.

What You Should Know About Snakebites 

Snakebite symptoms include pain and swelling. Remove any tight clothing or jewelry before you start to swell. If you receive antivenom treatment within two hours of the bite, your chance of recovery is greater than 99%.

It is best not to panic, as death is extremely rare if you can get yourself to the emergency room as soon as possible. If you are on a trail without cell phone reception, walk or ride your bike out, do not run.  If you can drive, drive immediately to your nearest emergency room. If you are unable to drive, call 911 and request to take you to the closest emergency room.

Dr. Smith advises things NOT to do if you get bit.

  • Cutting an incision so you can suck out the venom – You likely saw this from old Western movies, it does not work.
  • Using a snakebite kit — These kits are ineffective and can cause damage.
  • Applying ice; This does nothing to treat the bite.
  • Giving the victim alcohol, caffeine, or medication; You may feel good, but it won’t help.
  • Applying electric shock; This is outdated and dangerous, do not do this.

Snakebite Treatment 

Once at the hospital, medical staff will assess the snake bite and conduct blood tests. The concern is that envenomation (i.e., the presence of venom in your body) can cause your blood’s platelet and fibrinogen counts to drop to dangerous levels, which can lead to hemorrhaging.

Snakebite symptoms can take quite a while to manifest, so you will likely be observed and retested for a minimum of four to six hours. Severe bites may require several days of hospitalization to ensure you have received sufficient antivenom treatment.

If you are bitten by a nonvenomous snake it is recommended to go directly to the emergency room for evaluation as you may require antibiotics and a tetanus shot.  We recommend you do not bring the snake in; we advise you to go directly to the emergency room.  Trying to obtain the snake may cause the snake to strike again, which in turn means you are losing valuable time to get to the emergency room.

How to prevent a snake bite 

Of course, the best snakebite advice is to actively avoid getting bit in the first place Dr. Smith said.

  • Avoid touching any snake.
  • Snakes like tall grass and piles of leaves, stay out of tall grass and piles of leaves.
  • Snakes hide out in rocks and in wood piles, be alert when climbing on rocks and touching wood piles.
  • Snakes like warm weather at night, therefore, be alert at night.
  • Wear boots and long pants when hiking or working outdoors.
  • Be careful where you reach with your hand as we have had multiple patients with bites to the hand.
  • Keep the area immediately around your home clear of tall grasses and be vigilant, as we have seen rattlesnake bites occur this season with people stepping out of the door onto their porch.

“I was hiking last weekend and a rattle snake was too close to the trail.  My husband helped worried hikers cross the trail.  It was a sign to me to be alert for snakes,” said Therese Williams, Director of Public Relations and Community Outreach.

If you have questions about rattle snakes and John C. Fremont Healthcare District’s treatment, please contact Therese Williams at therese.williams@jcf-hospital.com

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