Avera Medical Minute: 10-year-old boy survives rattlesnake bite

Published: Oct. 9, 2023 at 9:56 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - You may want to watch your step a little more closely in some areas of South Dakota. That’s because you may come across a rattlesnake.

If you do, what should you do? And if you get bitten, what’s the next step?

One 10-year-old boy shared his story following an encounter with a rattlesnake.

“I went outside, and right after I got to the fence post, I heard something in the grass, so I looked over, and before I could do anything to react, it bit me,” said 10-year-old Aden Harer.

“Within seconds, he was back in the house saying, ‘Mom, I got bit by a snake,’ and of course, I said, ‘What did it look like?’ and he told me it was green with diamonds. Then I pretty much knew that it was probably a rattlesnake,” said Aden’s mom, Carrier Harer. “Honestly, the rattlesnake situation was my worst fear. I had to work to calm myself back down because I was getting lightheaded thinking, ‘What do I do? How do I get him there?’ I just knew time was of the essence and a situation where we needed the antivenom. So I got Aden in the car, and we took off, headed towards Gettysburg.”

“I was taking calls that day. I came in, and in my initial evaluation, he was doing pretty well. All he really complained of was pain where the bite had occurred, which was in his leg,” said KaraLynn Kuhn, a physician assistant with Avera Medical Group Gettysburg.

“It felt like getting an IV put in, but into your shin, and then it felt like fire,” said Aden Harer.

“With rattlesnake bites, antivenom is the mainstay of treatment. The most important thing is to do a good initial evaluation of the patient, get a good baseline. How are they right now? Is that going to change in 15 minutes? When he first came in, he was only complaining of pain where the bite occurred, and then he started to feel a little sick. He was getting hot, got a little clammy and sweaty, and then he vomited a couple times, so then you start worrying like, ‘Okay, I need to get on the phone, talk to Pierre.’ He’s probably going to need some more attention,” said Kuhn.

“We took an ambulance to the Gettysburg airport because it was a fixed wing plane that came for us,” said Carrier Harer.

“He looked fairly okay, a little pale. We did a quick assessment right in the ambulance and then quickly put him inside of our aircraft,” said Heidi Kostas, a registered nurse with Avera Caregflight. “With pediatric patients, being a mom myself, I know how scary it can be to have to put your child in an aircraft and then being taken somewhere and you not know about them, so I was really grateful that Carrie was able to ride with us and kind of give her peace of mind and keep her up to date and sit next to her and let her know that Aden was going to be okay.”

“I’m thankful. I think in our situation, it turned out the best possible outcome we could have had, given the resources in town, and we were able to get more resources and that was in Pierre, and luckily at that point, he had no further reactions, so we were able to just spend two more nights in ICU to watch him,” said Carrier Harer.

“I think I kind of got bit right here in this area,” said Aden Harer.

“A rattlesnake bite can be life-threatening, and had he stayed there, he probably could have got him here, but we were able to speed up that transport so he could get the care he needed,” said Kostas.

For more information about rattlesnake bites and what you should do in the event you are bitten, visit avera.org/medicalminute.