What To Do If You Get Bit By A Rattlesnake?

Most people know that rattlesnakes are poisonous. If you hear that characteristic rattling noise they make, it’s time to leave the area. But what if the snake bites you before you can get away? In this article, we’ll talk about what to do if you get bit by a rattlesnake.

What Should You Do if Bitten By a Rattlesnake?

What Should You Do if Bitten By a Rattlesnake

A rattlesnake bite is a medical emergency, but it is rarely fatal if treated properly. 

Rattlesnake bites will cause symptoms such as blurred vision, numbness and tingling, trouble breathing, weakness, sweating, excess saliva, nausea and vomiting, and lightheadedness. A bite may not produce all of these symptoms in everyone, or they may not manifest immediately, and the symptoms may be more severe in some people than in others.

The best treatment for a rattlesnake bite is to avoid being bitten altogether. When you’re out in the snakes’ natural habitat, watch for them and listen for the telltale rattling noise they make; wear loose clothing and boots; and don’t provoke the snakes if you see them.

Of course, it’s not always possible to avoid being bitten–rattlesnakes often take people by surprise. What should you do in these situations?

What to Do:

  • Stay calm: If you are bitten by a rattler, try to keep yourself as calm as possible. Panicking can cause your heart rate to increase, which will circulate the venom more quickly, and may make it more difficult for you to think clearly and act appropriately.
  • Leave the area: Rattlesnakes may bite the same target more than once. If you are bitten, immediately leave the area and try to get at least twenty yards away.
  • Try to rest if possible: If you can, sit down and rest while you wait for help to arrive or have a friend drive you to the hospital. Sitting still will keep your heart rate down, thus slowing the spread of venom through your body.
  • Remove jewelry or tight clothing: The area around a rattlesnake bite may begin to swell, and if it does, any clothes or jewelry in the area may constrict blood flow. This can cause further tissue damage, so it’s important to remove anything that may constrict before the area begins to swell.
  • Let it bleed: A little bit of blood flow from the wound is good, as it may flush out some of the venom in the process. There’s no need to apply direct pressure to a bite unless a major blood vessel has been punctured and the wound is gushing or spurting large amounts of blood. 
  • Use a clean bandage: If available, loosely apply a clean gauze bandage to the wound to keep dirt and bacteria from getting inside.
  • Get to the hospital: This is your top priority and best treatment option–as soon as you are safely away from the snake, get yourself to a hospital. If possible, call for an ambulance or have a friend drive you; the sooner you get to the hospital, the sooner you can receive an antivenom treatment and begin recovering.

What NOT to Do:

When bitten by a rattlesnake, you should never:

  • Put ice on the wound: Icing a rattlesnake bite will do nothing to stop the spread of the venom. In fact, it may cause further tissue damage to the area and may even lead to frostbite.
  • Cut the wound: You should never slice open the puncture marks of a snakebite wound. This will only cause further injury and won’t slow the spread of the poison.
  • Suck out the poison: It isn’t possible to suck all of the venom out of a snakebite wound. What’s more, any you do suck out will now be in your mouth, and the bacteria from your mouth will have gotten into the wound.
  • Elevate the wound: If you’re bitten on the leg, it’s okay to sit with your leg flat, but do not elevate it above heart level. Regardless of where the bite is on your body, you should try to keep it lower than the level of your heart, as it will take longer for the venom to reach your heart that way.
  • Use a tourniquet: Using a tourniquet will cut off the flow of blood to a limb. If you put it on wrong or leave it in place too long, it may result in you losing that limb.
  • Apply a shock: Sometimes, those who have been bitten by a rattler give themselves an electric shock to neutralize the venom, but this is a dangerous self-treatment that will likely cause more harm than good.

Don’t waste precious time on any of these ineffective methods of treatment. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get out of harm’s way and get to a hospital as quickly as possible.

Check out this brief video to learn more about surviving a rattlesnake bite.

Can You Survive a Rattlesnake Bite Without Treatment?

Technically, the answer is yes, but you will almost certainly experience major and lifelong complications.

As noted above, rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal, but this is assuming you get the proper treatment. The longer a bite is left untreated, the more damage it does in your body.

Rattlesnake venom destroys tissue and breaks down blood cells, causing cell death and internal bleeding to spread throughout your body. The venom will cause more problems over time, not less, and may even lead to organ failure.

So, a rattlesnake bite may not kill you, especially if you seek medical help for the complications it can cause. But, if continually left untreated, these complications will almost certainly kill you sooner or later–most likely sooner.

How Long Does it Take for a Rattlesnake Bite to Kill a Human?

According to Healthline, rattlesnake venom will cause your body to break down gradually over a period of 2 to 3 days. These ongoing effects can cause organ failure and death.

You may or may not die within 2 to 3 days unless you continue to go without treatment. The symptoms from the bite will worsen over this period of time, and they won’t get better on their own.

As time passes after the bite, you will begin to experience more extreme pain throughout the body, may go into shock, and may hemorrhage or experience organ failure. If all of these complications are left untreated, you will eventually die.

The best way to avoid death from a rattlesnake bite and its complications is to get prompt medical treatment. Even if you don’t seek treatment as soon as you should have, it is better to get help late than to not get it at all. 

How Long Do You Have to Get Antivenom After a Rattlesnake Bite?

It’s best to get to a hospital and get treated within 30 minutes of being bit by a rattler, but this is not always practical or possible.

In many cases, you may be out in the woods, away from your car and available cell service, and far from the nearest hospital. In these situations, don’t panic, but act fast.

Get away from the snake–run or bike out of the area if necessary. Get to the car as quickly as possible, or to an area with cell service. 

Call an ambulance as soon as cell service is available. If you are able and it is your quickest route to the hospital, you may want to drive yourself.

Rattlesnake venom will begin to cause local tissue death after about 6 hours, though systemic symptoms such as trouble breathing and numbness may begin sooner. The longer a bite is left untreated, the more tissue death will spread to other areas of the body.


Rattlesnake bites are extremely dangerous, but they rarely cause death. If you are bitten by a rattler, get to the hospital quickly in order to limit your symptoms and improve your chances of recovery. 

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