PCT Hiker Hospitalized After Rattlesnake Bite
A Pacific Crest Trail hiker was airlifted to the hospital after being bitten by a rattlesnake north of Tehachapi, California on Friday. The hiker’s three companions were able to relay the emergency and provide their location to the Kern County Emergency Communications Center, which promptly dispatched rescue teams to their aid.
Rescue teams used special offroad vehicles to reach the patient and rendered first aid until a Mercy Air helicopter arrived. The patient was then airlifted to a nearby hospital for further medical care.
“Today’s rescue was an excellent example of a positive patient outcome due to a prompt coordinated response and the use of specialty equipment,” stated a Kern County Fire Department press release.
The hiker, who wished to remain anonymous, reached out to The Trek to clarify that they were released from the hospital after making a full recovery. They expressed gratitude for the “quick and competent actions” of fellow hikers and rescuers.
Rattlesnakes are a common sight on the Pacific Crest Trail. Although rarely aggressive, rattlesnakes may bite if they feel surprised or cornered. Antivenom drugs are so effective that bites are rarely fatal, but an untreated bite can cause significant tissue damage or death after several hours.
Hikers should back away and give the snakes plenty of space if they encounter them on the trail. Stay at least 10 steps away from the snake and don’t wave things at it or try to push it out of the way with a stick—both of which tend to further agitate the snakes, according to the Sonoma County, California park service.
If the snake won’t move away, standing a safe distance away and stomping can alert it to your presence and encourage it to move off the trail.
If you are bitten, remain calm and try to minimize exertion, as increasing your heart rate can accelerate the venom’s spread. Seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you are in a remote area, contact emergency services and follow their instructions. If you don’t know when help will come, it is better to walk out as calmly as you can toward the nearest assistance than to stay still.
Additional rattlesnake bite tips:
- Remove watches, bands, or jewelry that could restrict swelling
- Keep the bite roughly level with your heart
- Do not apply a tourniquet or cut the bite to drain venom
- Do not apply ice or drink alcohol
Featured image: Kern County Fire Department.
Article updated 06/12/23 to include an update on the hiker’s status.
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