CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — As Central Texas springtime heats up and more residents head outdoors, there’s one critter you might come into contact with: rattlesnakes.
Between the warmer and wet spring weather paired with blooming wildflowers — bluebonnets, anyone? — now’s the time Texans are likely to bump into an unsuspecting visitor on their hike or spring photoshoot session. But what should you be aware of when it comes to spotting rattlesnakes, and what happens if you’re bitten?
It all comes down to being aware of your surroundings, said Michelle Galles, a nurse practitioner at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center. Creatures like rattlesnakes and fire ants prefer cooler surfaces that are hidden away and low to the ground, she said.
“People should always pay very close attention to where they’re walking,” she said. “For the bluebonnets. rattlesnakes and fire ants are kind of the top things that come to mind, because they provide coverage from the sun. And so the animals can — critters can stay nice and cool.”
For rattlesnakes, Galles said most tend to keep quiet and to themselves unless they perceive some sort of threat. Once they feel threatened, that’s when passerby will likely hear their signature “rattle” emerge.
If someone does hear a rattling sound, Galles said they should stop what they’re doing and scan the surrounding area to locate any snakes that might be emerging. Then, they should slowly walk backward and retreat back the way they came.
If bitten, Galles said there are critical safety steps residents need to take to ensure they get proper treatment quickly and effectively. First, she said those bitten should remove themselves from the area after taking a photo of the snake, if possible, to help determine if it’s a venomous breed or where it was located.
They should then go to their closest emergency room or call 911 if they’re unable to seek immediate assistance. If soap and water are available, she suggested people clean the infected site.
As for some of the commonly passed along tips, such as keeping the affected area above heart level? That is not something medical specialists recommend, she said.
“Do not apply a tourniquet. Mild elevation is okay, but do not lift the affected extremity above the level of the heart — so you can keep your legs down,” she said. “You don’t have to hold your arm up above your head or anything like that. But really the best thing you can do is proceed to the closest emergency department for further evaluation and maybe antivenom if necessary.”
While many people understandable get nervous or scared if bitten by a snake, Galles stressed the importance of staying calm and keeping blood pressures low and as relaxed as possible. Deep breaths, keeping the affected site below heart level and avoiding caffeine or alcohol are all recommended.
“Whatever you can do to decrease your fight or flight mechanism, we want your heart rate to stay low and controlled,” she said.