Outdoorsy Arizonans beware: it's rattlesnake season.
The number of rattlesnakes seen on the state's many hiking trails is picking up. Getting a rattlesnake bite is painful and can be fatal in some cases, according to Dr. Meghan Spyres, a toxicologist with Banner Poison and Drug Information Center.
“So, if you see a snake while hiking, you definitely want to stop, maybe take a couple steps back, give it some space, and then go around it,’’ she said. “And when you do that, make sure you're also looking for any other snakes that might be out there.’’
The center has already helped care for one rattlesnake-bite patient this year.
Dr. Spyres said rattlensnake venom affects people in two different ways. It can cause pain, swelling, redness, bruising and even tissue necrosis. The venom also impairs your blood's ability to clot.
“It's uncommon to die from a rattlesnake bite, but it certainly can occur,’’ she said. “They (severe bites) can cause your whole body to kind of have a reaction. Your blood pressure can go low. And that's one of the reasons it's important to seek immediate medical care, especially in the cases that might be more severe.’’
If you are bitten, Dr. Spyres recommends calling 911 immediately, removing any tight jewelry and elevating the bite site.
If you are bitten, do not do the following:
• Don’t apply tourniquets: Dr. Spyres said stopping blood flow may help with other types of snake bites but not with rattlesnakes.
• Don’t try to suck out the wound: “That's not effective,'' Spyres said. "And in fact, I've seen complications from people trying to suck out the venom that cause infections in the wound.’’
• Don’t capture the snake: Toxicologists can treat snakebite patients without knowing the type of snake they encountered.
The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center can be reached at 1-800-222-1222. The center provides a free, 24-hour emergency telephone service for both residents and medical professionals of Maricopa County.