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Poison center: Baby rattlesnakes have dangerous bites

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Poison center: Baby rattlesnakes have dangerous bites

  • A diamondback rattlesnake coiled near a cactus near Tucson.
    Carla Kishinami/FlickrA diamondback rattlesnake coiled near a cactus near Tucson.

Arizona residents should be on the lookout for rattlesnakes and their new offspring over the next few weeks.

Baby rattlesnakes, on the rise in August, strike without warning and have enough venom to be a serious health hazard, Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center spokeswoman Ann Cisneros said in a news release.

The baby rattlers begin to venture out in July and August. They do not give a warning before they strike because they do not have a rattle until they shed their first skins. Young rattlers can range from six to 12 inches long, and pack enough venom to be a serious health hazard. People must be cautious around brush and grass because the baby rattlers are almost invisible to the human eye, Cisneros said.

As part of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center assists residents of all counties in the state except Maricopa County. Many calls received by the specialists are from Arizonans who are unaware they have been bitten by a rattlesnake.

“People may not figure out what has happened until we go over the symptoms they are having. The parents of one of our youngest patients first thought their daughter had been stung by a scorpion. No one saw the snake,” said  Keith Boesen, director of the poison center, in the release.

A recent snakebite victim called the center and said there were multiple baby rattlers when he was bitten. Many unidentified snakebites occur year-round because not all adult rattlesnakes give a warning sound before they strike. 

Anyone who has been outdoors and experienced a strange sting, pinch, bite, small cut, or wound, especially on the arm or leg, is encouraged to call the center at 1-800-222-1222.

“We will ask a few questions that will help you either identify a possible snakebite or eliminate it,” said Boesen. “With snakebite, the sooner the medical treatment, the better the outcome. So calling us right away can make a very big difference for the victims and the medical teams treating them.”

Avoiding venomous bites

  • Beware of active times. Reptiles in Arizona are more active during the warm months: April through October. During hot months, reptiles prefer the cool night air.
  • Watch where you step or put your hands. Reptiles hide from the heat in crevices or under rocks and other debris. Be sure to wear shoes or boots after dark.
  • Leave them alone. About 70 percent of bites were provoked.
  • Don’t handle dead reptiles. Snake reflexes can still result in a bite several hours after death.
  • Install outdoor lighting; snakes like to come out at night to enjoy the cooler temperatures. If you are concerned about dangerous reptiles in your yard, then seek professional assistance in removal.

If bitten

  • DO try to stay calm.
  • DO contact the nearest poison control center.
  • DO pay attention to how you are reacting.
  • DO have someone else drive if possible.
  • DO realize that you have time.
  • DO NOT try to suck the venom out.
  • DO NOT ice the wound.
  • DO NOT create a tourniquet.
  • DO NOT wait to see how your body reacts.
  • DO NOT assume that having no symptoms means no venom.

— Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center

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