SONOMA COUNTY (KPIX 5) — As a two-year-old Pittsburg girl and a four-year-old Folsom boy are recovering from separate snake bite wounds, emergency workers warn that the Hollywood-based first aid of “sucking out the venom” may actually be the worst thing you could do.

When Jaclyn Camarazza’s son Vinnie stepped on a baby rattler while walking on a bike trail, his ankle immediately began to swell and turn purple.

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“Mama Bear instinct in me decided to suck the venom out because that’s what apparently Bonanza does,” Camarazza said.

Bonanza snakebite victims, apparently, would probably have died. Fortunately, Vinnie is doing better, as is the Pittsburg girl, but doctors and snake handlers are prepared for many more snake bites like these.

Al Wolf, director of the Sonoma County Reptile Rescue has lived through, by his count, 13 rattlesnake bites.

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Wolf has handled thousands of snakes. While he knows what he’s doing and is careful, he knows the feeling when snake venom attacks the body.

“You’ll feel it in your mouth, a tingling, numbness, a weird taste,” Wolf told KPIX 5. “Your fingers might tingle, your nose, your toes, your eyebrows. All these little feelings might happen. Pain will come a bit later.”

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Wolf said modern anti-venom has saved his life, and the lives of so many others.

“People don’t really die from snake bites anymore,” he said.

Laurie Osborne, the education director for the reptile rescue, said some old school ideas about treating snake bites can be more dangerous than the bite itself.

“Tourniquets can actually cause the venom to pool in place and cause more tissue damage in that one place,” Osborne said.

The center says don’t try to suck the venom out and never cut the bite with the knife. Just get to the hospital.

“All the hospitals in the Bay Area have anti-venom. It’s a pretty common thing,” Osborne said.

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