Folsom mother says son’s rattlesnake bite was learning experience

The emergency department at Mercy Folsom treats an average of four snakebite victims per month during the summer.
The emergency department at Mercy Folsom treats an average of four snakebite victims per month during the summer. lsterling@sacbee.com

A 41/2-year-old Folsom boy is recovering from a rattlesnake bite suffered Saturday evening on a trail near his home, and his mother said the incident has proved a learning experience for the family.

Jaclyn Caramazza said she decided to post an account on Facebook to alert people to the danger of snakes in the area, and to the do’s and don’ts of dealing with snake bites.

Caramazza said she, her husband, Jim, and their son Vinny were among a group of seven people walking the trail along Folsom’s Humbug Creek about 8 p.m. Saturday. Vinny ran ahead of the group toward what looked like a little pile of debris or dog feces, and suddenly started crying.

Caramazza said they initially thought he was upset because they had told him “Don’t jump in that,” but he said, “It bit me.” Realizing that the “pile” was a snake, they examined Vinny’s foot and saw that the snake had bitten him through the top of his sandal.

Jaclyn Caramazza, who is nine months pregnant, said she did what she had always heard one should do in the event of a snake bite: Suck the venom from the wound. That practice, she later learned, is not recommended.

Her husband ran home, got the car, picked her and her son up at the nearest corner, and rushed them to Mercy Hospital Folsom, where the emergency room staff administered anti-venom. Vinny was then transferred to Kaiser Roseville Medical Center, where he spent two days in pediatric care before returning home Monday.

“We did pretty much everything right,” Jaclyn Caramazza said.

But she learned that sucking venom from the wound is an “urban myth.” Although she suffered no ill effects, Caramazza said she was told venom could have entered her bloodstream if she had a cut in her mouth. And although they got Vinny to the hospital within 15 minutes, she said, calling an ambulance would have allowed paramedics to start an IV and call ahead to the hospital so the staff would have been ready to administer the anti-venom when they arrived.

Dr. Aaron Breit, an emergency physician at Mercy Folsom, said he did not treat Vinny, but the hospital’s emergency department treats an average of four snakebite victims per month during the summer.

He said there is no reason to cut into the bite wound, noting that it does no good and can cause more tissue damage. Most important, Breit said, is to “remain calm and get the bite to a neutral position.” It also can be helpful to mark the bite with an ink pen, as swelling can occur quickly, making it difficult for medical personnel to pinpoint the location.

Then try to get the victim to a hospital as quickly as possible. A private vehicle is OK if traffic conditions allow and it can be done safely, he said. Calling an ambulance may be beneficial because paramedics can establish an IV and administer medication for pain or anaphylactic shock. A person bitten while in a remote area should be taken out by litter, rather than trying to walk out, Breit said.

He advised people to be particularly careful this time of year when walking on trails, working in the yard or moving items like trash cans in areas where snakes may be hiding.

The good news, Breit said, is that people typically recover from rattlesnake bites when treated promptly. Of the cases Mercy Folsom has handled, Breit said, “I don’t know of any fatalities. It is mostly soft tissue damage.”