How to Survive a Rattlesnake Bite

Rattlesnakes are among the most venomous snakes in North America that outdoorsmen need to take special precaution around. We’ve shown you the 20 most venomous snakes in the world and how to avoid them altogether.  But what to do if you actually get bitten by a rattlesnake?

Venomous snakes bite an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 people in the United States each year only resulting in about five deaths. In most cases those deaths are caused by not getting medical attention soon enough. If antivenom is administered with two hours of a bite, the probability of recovery is more than 99 percent. 

RELATED: 4 Tips for Dealing with Snakes on the Trail

A recent story told by Dana Sanders, who was bitten in Mississippi by a timber rattlesnake, one of North America’s most venomous snakes, show just how damaging a bite from one of these snakes can be. Sanders told Field and Stream magazine recently how he was clearing was brush to practice target shooting when suddenly the snake bit him. 

“The strike was the most unbelievable sensation; it was just so violent. I knew right away that a timber rattler had bitten me. When I raised my leg out of the brush, blood was pouring from the wounds, and I felt the pain almost immediately,” he told the magazine. 

RELATED: 20 Most Venomous Snakes in the World

Sanders knew that getting to the hospital and receiving antivenom was the key to a healthy recovery. So they called 911 and rushed to the hospital. 

“An ambulance met us halfway, and by that point, the pain felt as if a steamroller had run me over,” he said. “Doctors ended up using 12 vials of antivenin and had to remove two 2-inch holes of rotted tissue from my leg.”

If you do not have access to antivenom or in the meantime before it arrives, here are some dos and don’ts until help arrives.

  • Remain calm, retreat from the snake and call 911.
  • Remove any restrictive clothing or accessories like rings, bracelets and watches.
  • Splint or immobilize the area of the bite and lay the victim down to elevate the area above heart level.
  • Only apply a tourniquet above the bite if the victim is more than an hour away from the hospital.  
  • Sucking out the venom is also not recommended unless you’re more than an hour from medical attention and must be done within five minutes of the bite.
  • Keep the victim warm and comfortable to maintain a low heart rate. 
  • If you can, take a picture of the snake, otherwise stay the heck away.