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‘You Might Wish You Were Dead.' It's Rattlesnake Weather in Southern California

"Your odds of survival are like 999 out of a thousand. You might wish you were dead, but you are likely to live," said Dr. William Hayes, a professor of biology for Loma Linda University and also an expert on rattlesnakes.

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After "The Princess Bride" star Cary Elwes was hospitalized after being bitten by a rattlesnake in LA, it started a conversation around what Southern Californians should do to keep safe in "rattlesnake weather."

Elwes shared a gory photo of a black and blue finger while he was in the hospital for the bite, saying "Bit not by a ROUS but a rattlesnake.” The actor was of course referencing a "Rodent of Unusual Size" from his 1987 film. Click here for the image.

A woman in Riverside County shared she is also recovering after getting bitten by a rattlesnake in her backyard. As soon as she was bitten, she said could feel it moving throughout her body; a tingling that reached her mouth and lips.

Right now in Southern California, rattlesnakes are coming out of hibernation.

That’s why experts say you need to be careful when you are outdoors: hiking especially, but also even if you are just landscaping in your backyard.

A rattlesnake bit Murrieta resident Erin Mann last Friday.

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She was outside her home trying to wrangle her friend's dog from a patch of weeds when it happened.

"Immediately it felt like I got pricked by a thorn and when I pulled back I saw a baby rattlesnake all coiled up underneath the weed I was trying to pull," Mann said.

Erin's husband killed the rattlesnake and immediately took her to a nearby hospital.

"It was like something was going through my body: my hands were tingling, my lips, my mouth. And so the whole time we got in the car, my husband kept saying be calm, be calm," Mann said.

Her whole arm began to swell, and her finger was black and blue.

Erin Mann
Murrieta woman bitten by rattlesnake.

"The venom and the swelling of the finger was causing so much pain," she said.

Experts say rattlesnake bites will become much more common in the coming months because they are coming out of hibernation.

Dr. William Hayes is a professor of biology for Loma Linda University and he's also an expert on rattlesnakes.

"Your odds of survival are like 999 out of a thousand. You might wish you were dead, but you are likely to live," Hayes said.

He says victims must quickly head to an emergency room to prevent serious tissue damage, and recovery can take days -- even weeks.

"There is a common myth that [rattlesnake] babies are more dangerous. The saying is that babies can't control the venom and release more of it. There is no truth to that. The babies can control the amount of venom just like the adults can," Hayes said.

That's why if you're outdoors in warm weather, Hayes says you need to be extra careful, especially around brush or weeds.

Good advice, Mann agrees, who is still feeling the terrible pain from Friday's bite.

"Being bitten is a very scary experience especially as you feel everything going through you and you don't feel like you have much control," Mann said.

Experts also say if you are a dog owner, you may want to call your local humane society and see if they offer classes on rattlesnake bite prevention.

How to Handle a Bite

While bites are uncommon, those of a rattlesnake can result in serious injury or death.

And according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 8,000 people are bitten in the U.S. every year by venomous snakes, resulting in 10 to 15 deaths.

If bitten by a rattlesnake, there are definite do's and don'ts.

Do:

  • Stay calm.
  • Act quickly.
  • Remove anything that may constrict potential swelling in the affected area like watches, bracelets and shoes.
  • Get to the hospital as quickly as possible or call 911.

Don't:

  • Attempt to suck out the venom.
  • Apply a tourniquet.
  • Pack the bite area in ice.
  • Cut in or around wound.
  • Drink alcohol.

Here's what to do if a pet is bitten.

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