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California Poison Control System warns about snake bites

Posted: May 6, 2009 3:18 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2009 4:11 p.m.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The change in weather marks a change in rattlesnake behavior as well. Snakes live all over California and while most are not poisonous, the rattlesnake is.

In humans, a rattlesnake bite can produce swelling and bruising and can sometimes be fatal.

"Over the past couple of years we have seen an increase in powerful snake bites and that patient reactions to the bites have become more severe," said Richard F. Clark, MD, Medical Director for the CPCS and Director of the Division of Medical Toxicology at the University of California, San Diego.

"It is important for Californians to take extra precautions as they start to head outside, particularly with children and pets as their natural curiosity could create a deadly encounter with a snake," Clark said.

To protect against rattlesnake bites, the CPCS provides the following tips:
-- Keep children and pets close by when outdoors.
-- Stay on trails when hiking, and look carefully where you step.
-- Do not pick up or disturb a snake, even if it appears dead.
-- Do not reach into holes, bushes or anywhere that is hidden.

If bitten, symptoms of a severe bite include:
-- Extreme pain at the location of the bite
-- Nausea
-- Diarrhea
-- Swelling in the mouth and throat making it difficult to breathe
-- Lightheadedness
-- Collapse and shock

If bitten by a rattlesnake immediate medical treatment is critical, the CPCS provides the following tips:
-- Call 911 immediately. Administering an antivenom is the best treatment.
-- Do not apply ice, use a tourniquet or apply suction to the wound.
-- Immobilize the wounded area.
-- Move slowly.

Each year almost 300 snake bites are reported to the California Poison Control System alone. The California Poison Control System (CPCS) is available at or by calling 1 (800) 222-1222, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for immediate expert help and information in case of poison exposure.

The California Poison Control System at 1 (800) 222-1222 has trained and certified pharmacists, nurses and Poison Information Providers to quickly help you 24/7. The service is free and confidential, and interpreters for over 100 languages are always available.

The CPCS has four Divisions - UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco, Children's Hospital Central California in Fresno/Madera and the UC San Diego Medical Center in San Diego. The CPCS is part of the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.


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