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Ann Emerg Med. 1989 Jun;18(6):658-63.

The legitimacy of rattlesnake bites in central Arizona.

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Good Samaritan Medical Center, Department of Medical Toxicology, Phoenix, Arizona 85006.


Previous authors have classified poisonous snake bites as being legitimate or illegitimate, depending on whether the victim was taking unnecessary risks with a snake before being bitten. We reviewed medical records of 86 consecutive rattlesnake bite victims cared for at a single medical center to determine legitimacy of snake bites. A bite was considered illegitimate if, before being bitten, the victim recognized an encounter with a snake but did not attempt to move away from the snake. A legitimate bite was said to have occurred if a person was bitten before an encounter with a snake was recognized or was bitten while attempting to move away from a snake. The study group was made up of 75 male (87.2%) and 11 female (12.8%) victims. Seventy-four percent were 18 to 50 years old, and 15% had been bitten previously. Only 43.4% of all bites were considered legitimate, and pet (captive) snakes accounted for almost one third of all illegitimate bites. The ingestion of alcoholic beverages was associated with 56.5% of illegitimate bites versus 16.7% of legitimate bites (P less than .001). While 74.4% of bites were to upper extremities, only 27% of upper extremity bites were legitimate. All bites to the lower extremity were legitimate (P less than .001). Of 14 individuals bitten by pet snakes, all were men and 64.3% were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the bite.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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