For many, spring is a season for long hikes, sunshine and plenty of play outdoors. Unfortunately, it is also rattlesnake season in San Diego, which can not only pose a serious risk to our pets, but to our children as well.

The best protection against snakes—for animals and humans alike—always begins with education. Keep your little ones safe this season with these tips.

Kids, much like pets, are naturally curious about snakes. Unfortunately, this means that several children are bitten each year! According to  the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors.

In Southern California, the only poisonous snake is the rattlesnake (genus Crotalus). If your child is bitten by a rattlesnake, he/she will need emergency medical attention. It is important to remember that because of a child’s small body size, snake bites are far more serious for children than they are for adults.

To prevent snake bites in chilldren:

  • Teach children early to respect all snakes and to leave them alone. Children (and adults) should never approach or try to handle any snake in the wild, even if it appears dead.
  • Stick to well-traveled trails when hiking. Do not let children run ahead on the trail. If you see a snake, walk the other way or pass at a safe distance. Always give snakes the right of way!
  • Never put your hands or feet somewhere you can’t see. Be especially careful about stepping on logs, climbing on rocks and collecting firewood.
  • Never grab “sticks” or “branches” while swimming in lakes and rivers. Rattlesnakes can swim.
  • Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking in the rough.

If you suspect a snake bite in a child:

  • Do not try to cut the wound, suck out the venom, use a tourniquet or apply ice.
  • Stay calm and seek immediate medical attention.
  • Keep the affected area still and below heart level.