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It’s Rattlesnake Bite Season In San Diego County, Health Officials Warn

Video

It's Rattlesnake Bite Season In San Diego County, Health Officials Warn

Aired 4/25/13 on KPBS News.

Rattlesnakes are emerging from hibernation across San Diego County and health officials are warning people to stay vigilant.

San Diego emergency rooms are preparing for another busy season of venomous rattlesnake bites and urging people to be on the lookout.

The warning comes two days after 5-year-old Saniyah Ethridge of East County was bitten on the foot by a rattlesnake near her home.

Southern Pacific rattlesnake
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Above: Southern Pacific rattlesnake

What To Do In The Event Of A Rattlesnake Bite

  • Call 911
  • Stay calm
  • Wash the bite area gently with soap and water
  • Remove watches, rings, etc, which may constrict swelling
  • Immobilize the affected area
  • Keep bite area below the level of the heart

"I got bit by a rattlesnake and it was a small one. And the small ones give you a lot of poison in you," said Ethridge, as she recalled the incident at a news conference at Rady Children's Hospital.

Katherine Konzen, medical director of Rady Children's Urgent Care Centers, said after a rattlesnake bite, time is of the essence.

"The success rate of rattlesnake bites in terms of being completely recoverable is about 98 to 99 percent and that’s if they get the anti-venom within two hours," Konzen explained.

Konzen said after a bite, first call 911. Keep the victim calm and the affected body part immobile and below the level of the heart.

Common mistakes during a snake bite emergency often make things worse, Konzen warned.

"Never apply a tourniquet," she said. "That will cut off blood supply. Do not cut a hole to try to let the area bleed, because bleeding becomes a problem with snake bites. Do not suck out the venom, that’s an old sort of wives tale. You don’t want to do that because you could introduce more germs."

Animal control officers have responded to a dozen rattlesnake calls within the last week, said Lt. Kalani Hudson of the San Diego County Dept. of Animal Services. Hudson said snakes are drawn to areas where there are plentiful food sources and people can take steps to make their yards unappealing to the predators.

"Don’t leave bird feeders with seed out on the ground, or pet food out," said Hudson. You want to make sure that any sort of brushy areas are trimmed back, so that way you can see what’s underneath. Remove any sort of wood piles and other areas where the snake could go ahead and hide, and also rodents can go ahead and nest in."

Ethridge is expected to make a full recovery. Her mother, Samantha Ethridge, hopes other parents can learn from their experience.

"It was a very scary ordeal but I’m glad that she’s better and she’s on the road to recovery," she said. "We had a lot of people that played a part in helping her get to where she’s at now."

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