As luck would have it, everything you ever learned from those old cowboy films appears to be true. Well, at least when it comes to venomous snakes. It turns out that after much research, Rattlesnakes are in fact the most poisonous snake in north America.
The Rattlesnake is easily identifiable by the tell-tale rattle on the end of its tail. Rattlesnakes are actually a part of the Pit Viper family, and are capable of striking out at up to 2/3 rds of their body length.
Most species of rattlesnakes have hemotoxic venom which destroys tissue, degenerates organs and causing coagulopathy (disrupted blood clotting).
Some degree of permanent scarring is very likely in the event of a venomous bite, even with prompt, effective treatment. In extreme cases this can lead to the loss of a limb or death. Difficulty breathing, paralysis, drooling and massive haemorrhaging are also common symptoms. Thus, a rattlesnake bite is always a potentially fatal injury. Untreated rattlesnake bites, especially from larger species, are very often fatal. However, antivenin, when applied in time, reduces the death rate to less than 4%.
Luckily, rattlesnakes do not view humans as prey and so as many as 50% of bites by rattlesnakes are 'dry bites' where no venom is injected. However, if you have been envenomated symptoms include - but are not limited to - pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea dizziness, collapse or convulsions, Yellow vision, numbness of digits, metallic taste in mouth, fasciculations, and/or death.
What to do if you are bitten by a rattlesnake
1. First, look for obvious symptoms. If the area of the bite begins to swell and change colour, the bite was not 'dry' and the rattlesnake has injected you with venom.
2. Keep the bitten area still. You can immobilize the area with an improvised splint made from a board, magazines, or other stiff material tied to the limb. Don't tie it too tight as you don't want to stop blood flow altogether.
3. Remove any jewellery or constricting items near the affected area in case of swelling.
4. Keep the area of the area of the snake bite lower than the heart.
5. Make your way to a hospital immediately.
If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, DO NOT use ice to cool the bite.
If bitten by a rattlesnake, DO NOT cut open the wound and try to suck out the venom.
If bitten by a rattlesnake, DO NOT use a tourniquet. This will cut off blood flow and the limb may be lost.
Contrary to what you may have seen on the television, rattlesnakes are not toys to play around with, so try and avoid them altogether. If you see one, don't try to get closer to it or catch it, and keep your hands and feet away from areas where you cannot see - such as between rocks, tall grass or anywhere else rattlesnakes like to rest.
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