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Rattlesnakes are poisonous snakes known for their rattling tails (listen and hear what a rattlesnake sounds like). You may not always hear a rattling sound despite having a rattlesnake nearby. Throughout their lifespan from the moment they hatch, rattlesnakes contain poisonous venom. Their bites can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly.

Rattlesnakes are commonly found on hiking trails and in rural areas throughout California. The California Poison Control System receives hundreds of rattlesnake exposure calls every year, especially during the months of April to October—when the weather is warmer and people head outdoors. Here’s the good news: Rattlesnake bites are preventable! Learn how to identify and prevent poison exposure from rattlesnake bites by following the tips below.

About Rattlesnake Bite Poisoning

Severe or even life-threatening symptoms may occur within minutes or couple of hours after a rattlesnake bite. As rattlesnake bites can be deadly, your best bet is to call 911 and get to a hospital as soon as you can.

Rattlesnake Bite Symptoms

  • Extreme pain
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Swelling in the mouth and throat
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Swelling at the location of the bite
  • Collapse
  • Shock, in rare cases

Rattlesnake Bite Treatment

  • Get immediate medical help as a rattlesnake bite can be deadly.
  • Remain calm and do not run.
  • Keep the bite site elevated above your heart, on your way to a hospital.
  • What about pets? Many veterinarians now carry rattlesnake anti-venom and vaccines for dogs and other pets. Contact your veterinarian for more information.

Do not attempt the following:

  • Do not apply ice or heat to the bite site.
  • ​​​​Do not cut or slice around the bite.
  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks.
  • Do not suck out venom (poison).
  • Do not take medicines.
  • Do not use a constricting band or a tourniquet to restrict blood flow.

Watch Close Calls with CPCS: Rattlesnakes to learn about rattlesnake bite safety tips and prevention from our poison experts.

Rattlesnake Bite Prevention

Take precautions outdoors and minimize your chance of being bitten by a rattlesnake.

Wear Protective Clothing Outdoors

  • Long-sleeved shirts
  • Long pants
  • Hats and gloves
  • Closed-toe shoes or boots

Stay Cautious Outdoors

  • Do not hike alone in remote areas. Have someone with you in case of an emergency.
  • Look after children and keep dogs and other pets on a leash.
  • Stay on trails, away from underbrush and tall weeds.
  • Watch your step and pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Carefully inspect logs or rocks before sitting on them.
  • If you spot a rattlesnake, stay away.
  • Do not touch or disturb a snake, even if it appears dead.

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