How to Treat a Rattlesnake Bite

Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office medical team shares what to do (and what NOT to do) post-snake attack.

By Alisha Gorder August 1, 2013

Based on advice from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office medical team

Rattlers hide out around rocks or downed logs. Bites are rarely fatal, but usually require medical attention.

1. Keep the victim calm. Or as calm as anyone can be after a fanged serpent snaps them. Keep the bite site below heart level—contain flailing limbs. The bite will swell, so remove rings or other constraining items from the affected area.

2. Apply bandages or cloth strips two inches above and below the bite mark, no tighter than you would wrap a sprain. (This restricts the flow of lymphatic fluid, hopefully containing the venom’s toxins.) Wash the bite site with soap and water, or disinfect. Monitor the victim’s temperature, pulse, breathing, and blood pressure.

3. Seek help. If the victim must hike out, make sure they sit for 20–30 minutes before walking, so the venom can settle at the bite site. 

4. If you can safely kill the snake, bring it with you to show medical personnel. But be careful! A snake can still reflexively bite and release venom after death.

DO NOT ...
Cut into the bitten area; apply cold compresses; give the bite victim pain medication; or try to suck out the venom with your mouth. 

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