Experts on venomous creatures at the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center and Banner Poison and Drug Information Center advise gardeners, hikers, youngsters and other citizens to be especially cautious about rattlesnakes in the weeks ahead.
Whether human desert dwellers are ready or not, Arizona’s rattlesnakes are welcoming offspring. Baby rattlers are born in July and August and are active.
The baby snakes are born with a button and they don’t develop a rattle until they first shed their skins, so they make no warning sound before striking. The babies range in length from 6 to 12 inches, and have enough venom to be very dangerous. Brush and grass may camouflage the small snakes so well that they are “invisible” to people.
The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center in Tucson, part of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, serves all parts of the state except Maricopa County. The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, part of Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, provides services for Maricopa County. The trained specialists answering the phones receive calls from Arizonans of all ages who have suffered rattlesnake bites, including some who may not realize they have encountered a reptile.
“People may not figure out what has happened, or the risk for severe injury, until we go over the symptoms they are having,” says Daniel Brooks MD, medical director of the Banner poison center. “Adult rattlers don’t always give an audible warning before or while they are biting, so the risk of unidentified snakebite exists year-round.”
From Jan. 1 through July 26 this year, 143 rattlesnake bites of humans were reported to the Arizona centers. The number is a usual amount for this point in the year.
The poison centers urge anyone who feels a mysterious sting, pinch or bite while outdoors, especially on an arm or a leg, to immediately call the center at 1-800-222-1222. Calling also is a good idea for those who feel no pain but notice an unidentified small cut or wound.
“We will ask a few questions that will help you either identify possible snakebite or rule it out,” says Keith Boesen, PharmD, director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center. “With snakebites, the sooner the medical treatment, the better the outcome, so calling us right away can make a very big difference for the victims and the medical teams treating them.”