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January 2011 How To Survive!

Rattle Snake
Tori Tellem | Writer
Posted January 1, 2011
Photographers: California Department of Fish and Game

Snakes, Oh The Pain

Welcome to a brand-new column in Jp magazine-How to Survive!

Each month we'll discuss all sorts of crazy scenarios you might encounter on the trail, both in camp and beyond. Some of those things will be living and breathing, such as this month's snake focus, while future survival tips will include surviving stuff like your Jeep dangling from a cliff or ways to keep your lost ass alive in the middle of the desert. You should know that this will not be a step-by-step, how-to column, though-you can use Google or YouTube for that (but chances are high that Google will tell you whatever scenario is cancer). We'll give you enough basic tips to help you avoid doing the wrong thing.

This month, it's all about How to Survive! snakes, including a bite. While researching this story, a wise person told us that the main risk factor for a snakebite "is being drunk and stupid. Seriously, I think 19- to 26-year-old men have the most bites of anyone." Ahem, readers. We turned to Dr. Cyrus Rangan of the California Poison Control System for the skinny on snakes. And because we know that many of you take your dog on the trail, we also talked to a veterinarian about how to keep Mr. Winky safe, too.

Sssnake Sssafety
•The most notable poisonous snakes in North America include rattlesnakes, Copperhead, and Coral. On the rattlers list, Western Diamondback, Mojave, and South Pacific are among them.

•Nearly every state has a poisonous snake of some kind.

•Snake season peaks from March to October.

•Your hand or foot is the most likely location of a snakebite.

•How to ID a rattlesnake? It might be "the oval or elliptical pupils in the eye, a triangular-shaped head, and a 'pit' at the front of the head," explained Dr. Rangan. No need to use your face as a microscope; just assume it's poisonous and run.

•Wait, should you actually run? If you encounter one at close range, it's better to take things slow; don't create a stir. Also don't poke or throw things at it. Snakes are the ones on the defensive, not you. If it's in camp, wait for it to move along on its own, or contact the ranger.

•What if you're bitten? First, don't panic. Second, get to the hospital right away. The medical peeps will be able to keep an eye on symptoms that could signify that the snake was poisonous.

•And what are some of those poisonous symptoms? They're delightful: "Painful and progressive swelling of the affected area. Numbness, tingling, and bruising around the site of the bite may occur," said Dr. Rangan.

•If getting to the hospital will take some time, keep the area clean and immobilized-elevate the bitten area above the heart (you can use pillows or folded blankets for elevation if you're not a yogi). And, "Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) may be helpful to help manage the early phase of pain as you travel to the hospital," added Dr. Rangan.

•What shouldn't you do? Don't apply a tourniquet or constricting band, nor should you suck on the wound like the old joke goes. Don't cut or slice it, either.

•Now, dogs: Face, nose, or lips is where they are most commonly bitten. A nonpoisonous snakebite could cause slight redness and minor swelling that will regress quickly.

•Don't tourniquet, suck, or slice your dog's bite. Also don't apply an ice pack or hot pack. And here's another repeat-no panicking. Keep the dog calm and quiet on the way to the vet.

•Crotalus Atrox Toxoid: That's the rattlesnake vaccine available for pets (but not humans). It stimulates the formation of antitoxins against the bite (hmm, except for bites from Coral, Cottonmouth, and Eastern Diamondback). Your vet can give you more info.

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