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You should obviously avoid rattlesnakes if at all possible. But if you do get bitten by one, what should you do? What supplies can be brought ahead of time to allow for the best treatment, and what should you do if you have nothing other than standard gear for a day hike? How soon after a bite is medical care needed?

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possible duplicate of What to do if you're bitten by an adder? –  Timothy Strimple Jan 25 '12 at 19:53
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I wonder if it's not better to generalize and ask "What should you do if you're bit by a (poisonous) snake?" –  Timothy Strimple Jan 25 '12 at 19:54
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@TimothyStrimple: Is the answer the same for all kinds of poisonous snakes? –  jrdioko Jan 25 '12 at 20:14
    
The answer is the same for pit vipers, which include rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins. Bites from these snakes are usually not fatal even without medical attention, and in most (or many?) cases they don't use antivenin because the side effects might be worse than a minor snakebite. Also, sometimes pit vipers bite without injecting much or any venom. (This leads to some invalid claims of being immune to snakebites.) –  xpda Jan 25 '12 at 20:21
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I'd suggest it's not a duplicate because it's not the same for all snakes at all - the bite of a typical British adder is usually much less venomous and deadly than that of a rattlesnake. –  berry120 Jan 31 '12 at 17:07
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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

When bitten by a rattlesnake:

  • keep the patient still.
  • keep the body part/limb bitten below the area of the heart.
  • do not constrict blood flow, remove jeweler, other articles of clothing, accessories that might restrict blood flow.
  • get to a hospital as fast as possible, if at all possible.
  • do NOT cut the bite and attempt to suck the venom
  • do NOT apply a tourniquet, this is related to constricting blood flow, one can lose a limb if blood flow is lost.

As for things to bring to prepare: an ounce of prevention is worth a lot.

  • wear long pants and even snake gaiters.
  • if you can't/don't want to wear snake gaiters, wear boots that are at least 8-10" tall, such as logger, hunting, or wildland firefighting boots.
  • best way is to combine tall boots and snake gaiters.
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Medical care is needed immediately. Get it quickly. The Sawyer Kit is actually reported to reduce the severity of bites, but does not replace the need for care. It may buy you some extra time though.

Running or other activities that drive your heart rate up aren't generally good. It's kind of hard to keep the heart rate down because your first instinct is going to be "panic". If you have more than one person, send the one who did not get bitten for help. There's a bit of judgement needed here. If it's two days to get help, leaving a bitten person alone is not a good option.

Keep the injury low, don't tie a torniquet, don't "cut" the wound to get venom out.

There's really no other good solution.

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I believe extractors such as the Sawyer kit have been shown to be largely ineffective, and as such are no longer recommended by the Wilderness Medicine Institute (WMI) or Wilderness Medicine Associates (WMA) in their Wilderness First Aid/First Responder courses. –  LBell Feb 7 '12 at 2:04
    
LBell, when were those recommendations last updated? I ask because last I knew, extractors in general were not, but the sawyer in particular was. In either case I'd love to read an update if you have a link to share :) –  Russell Steen Feb 7 '12 at 3:02
    
Couldn't find anything publicly available, but I last re-certified my WFR 6 months ago, and don't remember a "sawyer exception" - but I could be mis-remembering, and don't have any way to confirm that at the moment. Sorry. –  LBell Feb 7 '12 at 3:49
    
@LBell -- No worries. I'll look into some more myself as well. –  Russell Steen Feb 7 '12 at 17:29
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