American rattlesnake envenomation

American Rattlesnake Envenomation

American rattlesnakes are part of the large and widespread Crotalinae subfamily of venomous snakes. They are found mainly in the United States and parts of Mexico and Central America. There are approximately 36 species of rattlesnakes. Most of these species are found in the United States.

American rattlesnake envenomation is a serious medical emergency, occurring when venom injection from the snake’s fangs occurs after a bite. The severity of the envenomation symptoms depend on the species of the snake, the amount of venom injected, and the location of the bite.

Signs and symptoms of envenomation usually appear within minutes to hours after the bite. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the amount of venom injected and the size and age of the person bitten. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and swelling at the bite site
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Fainting
  • A general feeling of weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation
  • Bloody urine

Treating Envenomation

It is important to get medical help as soon as possible if you or someone else has been bitten by a rattlesnake. The sooner you receive treatment, the better the outcome.

In the hospital, treatment for envenomation often includes an antivenom, a medication that neutralizes the venom's toxins. Patients may also receive intravenous fluids, oxygen, and medications to control pain, inflammation, and nausea.

In some cases, it may be necessary to have surgery to repair damaged tissue. People who have been bitten often take antibiotics to help prevent infection.

If you think you or someone else has been bitten by a rattlesnake, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible so that appropriate treatment can be given.