What to Do If a Rattlesnake Bites You

Western Diamond Backed Rattlesnake
Jeremy Woodhouse/Photodisc/Getty Images

Most people who live in Arizona never see a snake for their entire lives, except maybe at the Phoenix Zoo or Wildlife World Zoo. If you are unfortunate enough to be bitten by a snake, don't panic. Snake bites rarely result in fatalities, particularly if you know how to react. However, if you are bitten by a venomous snake, you must seek professional medical help immediately. 

Don't know what kind of snake bit you? There are many varieties of snakes in the Phoenix area, some of which are venomous and some which are not. The most venomous snakes that are the most dangerous to your health in the Phoenix, Arizona area are the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake and the Arizona Coral Snake (also known as the Sonoran Coralsnake). The venom from a Mojave Rattlesnake can affect your nervous system. Baby rattlesnakes are dangerous because they tend to try to release as much venom as they can to protect themselves.

What to Do After a Rattlesnake Bite
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Avoiding Venomous Snakes

If you pay attention to areas where snakes are likely to hang out, such as on warm rocks or in tall grass, you'll have much less chance of being bitten.

  • Avoid rattlesnakes altogether. If you see one, don't try to get closer to it or catch it. If you don't have a lens on your camera that allows you to capture the photo from a distance, don't try to get closer for that fantastic shot.
  • Keep your hands and feet away from areas where you cannot see, like between rocks or in tall grass where rattlesnakes like to rest.
  • If you see a venomous snake in your yard, leave it alone and call a professional to remove it.

When a Snake Bites

Go to a hospital immediately. If you cannot get to a hospital, call the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.

  • Do not use ice to cool the bite.
  • Do not cut open the wound and try to suck out the venom.
  • Do not use a tourniquet. This will cut off blood flow and the limb may be lost.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not try to catch the snake. It just wastes time.
  • Look for symptoms. If the area of the bite begins to swell and change color, the snake was probably poisonous. For specific symptoms that may occur after being bitten by a snake, visit the University of Arizona poison and drug information center website.
  • Keep the bitten area still. Don't tie or wrap the limb tightly—you don't want to reduce blood flow.
  • Remove any jewelry or constricting items near the affected area in case of swelling.

There seem to be differing opinions about whether a limb that has been bitten by a venomous reptile should be raised above the heart, lower than the heart or even with the heart. The general consensus appears to be to hold the extremity level with the heart, or in a position that would not make blood flow either up or down.

Keeping Your Home Snake-Free

The Phoenix Herpetological Society lists tips to help your home free of snakes including:

  • Keep grass trimmed so that it is too short for snakes to hide in.
  • Keep yard free of debris, including wood piles, litter, etc.
  • Wear heavy work gloves and boots when working outside.
  • Before beginning any garden projects, use a rake to make sure the area is clear of all snakes before putting your hands into an area where a snake could be hiding.

There is no guaranteed way to keep snakes away because most homes and resorts are in the desert, which is snake-habitat.