First Aid Guide to Rattlesnake Bites

Rattlesnake bites are venomous. This dangerous specie of snakes is mostly found in the Northern and Southern America, particularly most dense in the southwestern United States. They are mainly found in grasslands, rocky hills, scrub brush, swamplands, meadows and deserts. Rattlesnakes are characterized by their diamond-shaped heads and relatively heavy bodies. Rattlesnakes are named as such due to the shaking of the ends of their tail that creates a hissing sound when predators are nearby.

Rattlesnake bites are considered to be a medical emergency. It is necessary to give them first aid immediately to help avoid the spread of the venom.

Components of a Rattlesnake Bites

Rattlesnake bites have two components: hemotoxic elements and neurotoxic elements.

  • Hemotoxic elements (primary component)
    • Affects the circulatory system
    • Destroys blood cells
    • Damages skin tissue
    • Leads to internal hemorrhage
  • Neurotoxic elements
    • Immobilizes the nervous system
    • Affects breathing and may cease it

Signs and Symptoms of Rattlesnake Bites

Due to the hemotoxic and neurotoxic elements of rattlesnake bites, their signs and symptoms mainly involve the circulatory and nervous system. The signs and symptoms of rattlesnake bites usually manifest immediately, they include:


Painful, burning or tingling sensation is usually felt at the site where the rattlesnake bites occur

  • One or two puncture marks that is bleeding
  • Painful, burning or tingling sensation at the bitten area
  • Swelling at the bitten area
  • Bruising and skin discoloration at the bite site
  • Blurred vision
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or paralysis
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness
  • Hypotension
  • Weak pulse
  • Trouble breathing

First Aid Management for Rattlesnake Bites

It is necessary to go to an emergency room as soon as possible. When given proper treatment at the soonest possible time, snake bites do not lead to serious effects. As is with other cases of snake bites, the following first aid tips are usually done in cases of rattlesnake bites:

  • Although there may be a lot of panic on the side of the casualty, it is important keep the casualty calm. Reassure them that snake bites can be effectively treated in the emergency room.
  • Limit movement of the bitten area. To help restrict movement of the area, create a loose splint. Keep the bitten area below heart flow. This will slow down the venom flow.
  • If pump suction devices are present, use them and follow the producer’s directions.
  • To avoid swelling of the bitten area, remove any constricting items, such as rings.
  • Check and monitor the vital signs of the casualty (pulse, rate of breathing, blood pressure and temperature).
  •  If symptoms of shock begin to show, lay the person flat. Elevate the feet to about one foot and cover the casualty with a blanket.
  • If possible, and more importantly, if it can be done safely, bring the dead snake to the emergency room. This can hasten the process of finding the right antivenom.
    • Do not attempt to catch a live snake to avoid more injuries.
    • Do not hunt for the snake if it is already gone.
    • Practice vigilance when transporting a dead snake as it can still bite several hours after its death due to a reflex.
  • Do not place a tourniquet or any cold compress on the snake bite.
  • Do not attempt to such out the venom by mouth.
  • Do not give pain medications unless the doctor says so. Moreover, do not give anything by mouth.

To learn how to effectively apply first aid on rattlesnake bites and other animal bites, enroll in First Aid Courses.

Rattlesnake bites are venomous bites caused by rattlesnake. These bites contain both hemotoxic and neurotoxic elements. Rattlesnake bites are considered a medical emergency.

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