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Bitten by a rattlesnake

Brad Dahl with the Utah Poison Control Center tells you what you should—and shouldn’t—do if a rattlesnake bites you.

What you learned as a scout on how to handle snakebites probably won’t come in handy and can even make the situation worse. Brad Dahl with the Utah Poison Control Center says once you’ve been bitten, those venom extraction kits won’t help much either. He’ll tell you what you should—and shouldn’t—do if a rattlesnake bites you.

Below is a summary of the interview. To listen to the full interview and read the transcript from, click here.

Poisonous snakes in Utah?

“The rattlesnake is the only venomous snake that lives in the wild in Utah,” said Brad Dahl

What should I do if I’m out hiking and get bitten by a rattlesnake?

“Well, the best thing to do, and this is a very difficult thing to do, is to not panic because I’ve got to be honest with you, even knowing what I know, I would probably come close to freaking out,” said Dahl. “Because if you can keep your heart rate and everything else as calm as possible, you’re going to do much better. Just know that we can help you. OK. You’re not going to die from this.”

Are rattlesnake bites lethal?

“Very rarely. It does happen every so often. The worst things that we see here in Utah is when people do things they shouldn’t do,” said Dahl.

What shouldn’t you do after a rattlesnake bite?

“The number one thing is what used to be in the Boy Scout manual and that is put a tourniquet on. Number one, you’re not going to stop the flow of venom through your body. Once it enters your body it’s on its way,” said Dahl. “It [a tourniquet] doesn’t help at all. It also inhibits your body’s ability to attack the venom itself with your own immune system. So you want your body to let it do its thing. You want to stay calm and don’t do that because otherwise, you can actually tissue at the bite site.”

Where do rattlesnakes typically bite a person?

In Utah, the hand is the most commonly bitten body part, said Dahl. “It’s very unusual to see people bit in the foot here in Utah. In the last 20 years, we’ve had probably less than 10 bites on the foot.”

What should I wear if I’m hiking and am nervous about rattlesnakes?

“So if you’re out hiking where there could be snakes, you definitely want to wear some good boots and you want to wear jeans,” said Dahl. “There’s actually been a study done on people wearing jeans and it’s protecting them from being envenomated.”

Do rattlesnakes envenomate every time they bite a person?

“Just because you’re bitten by a snake doesn’t mean they injected venom in you,” said Dahl. ” Although most of the time they do. So I always like to be an optimist. It’s like, ‘Oh, I was bitten by a rattlesnake. Hey! Maybe I wasn’t envenomated.'”

For more from Dahl on the do’s and don’ts of rattlesnake bites, click here.