“Rattlesnakes” are made up of a variety of subspecies of snakes that have a rattle located at the end of their tails, which is believed to have evolved to warn predators.
Every year in the United States, approximately 8000 people are bitten by venomous snakes. The majority of these bites are caused by rattlesnakes. About 9-15 people will die from their bite.
Of all venomous snake bites, about 25% are “dry bites” that have no venom injected.
Symptoms of a rattlesnake bite include swelling, severe pain, weakness, vomiting, perspiration, and ultimately heart failure.
How are rattlesnake bites treated?
Antivenin, also called antivenom, is the main treatment for snakebites. Antivenin is produced by “milking” a live rattlesnake. The venom is then injected into horses, goats, or sheep, and those animals make antibodies that protect against the venom. This is then extracted and centrifuged to separate the antibodies, and packed for distribution to hospitals. Other appropriate treatment includes IV fluids and oxygen.
There have been devices marketed to extract venom but none have been proven helpful. Incising across the fang marks has been tried but has not proven successful. “Mouth Suction” does not benefit the patient. Placing constriction bands (tourniquets) does not improve patient outcome.
A single dose of antivenin cost $14,000 per vial, and the average patient requires 4-6 vials, putting the total cost of antivenin per snake bite at $56,000 – $84,000.