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Rattlesnake bites on the rise — watch where you step, warns UArizona poison center

A rattlesnake crosses the Loop path near Swan Road on April 25. (Facebook)

Warm weather may lead to more outdoor activities, but be aware of rattlesnakes, cautions the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center located in the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy.

So far this year, 36 rattlesnake bites have been reported to AzPDIC. Twenty-four of those bites occurred in April, up from nine in March.

“We’re well into rattlesnake season here in Arizona,” says Steve Dudley, PharmD, DABAT, director of AzPDIC. “It’s not only hikers who need to be wary; home gardeners should be cautious as well. Roughly 25% of our rattlesnake bites happen to people gardening or doing yardwork.”

“Rattlesnakes don’t practice social distancing,” warns Laura Morehouse, MPH, CHES, poison education specialist. Be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, whether on the hiking trails or in your own backyard. If you encounter a snake, give it plenty of space. “And remember that a rattlesnake does not always rattle before it strikes,” Morehouse adds.

If you are bitten by a rattlesnake, get to a hospital immediately for laboratory work and potentially antivenom. “Rattlesnake bites can cause tissue damage, bleeding risks, or both. You can’t necessarily tell if you are at high risk of serious bleeding just by looking at where you were bitten,” Dudley advises.

 The best way to treat a rattlesnake bite is to prevent one altogether. Be careful where you step and pay attention to where you put your hands and feet. Do not approach or try to handle snakes, even if they appear to be dead. Finally, know the peak activity times for rattlesnakes. In the summer, rattlesnakes are most active in the early mornings and evenings.

AzPDIC helps hospital staff manage an average of 147 rattlesnake bites annually. AzPDIC provides its services for every county in Arizona except Maricopa, which has its own poison center.

Call 1-800-222-1222 day or night, 24/7, with questions regarding this or any other poison, drug, or chemical exposure.