Q: My family is hiking out West this month, and I'm worried about rattlesnakes. What should I do to protect us? — Stan G., York, Pa.
A: All snakes defend themselves if threatened, but not even the ornery Western diamondback rattlesnake will pursue a person just to bite. However, if you're unlucky enough to stumble upon one or foolishly try to pick one up, you could get bitten.
Between 7,000 and 8,000 folks a year do, usually resulting in five or six fatalities (nine times more people die from bee and wasp stings or lightning strikes). Fortunately, most snakes are harmless. But if you're bitten by a snake and are unsure if it's poisonous, here's what to do — and not do!
John Wayne and his cowhands taught us to make an incision over a snake bite and suck out the venom. Whoa, Nelly! You couldn't do worse. The cut helps venom enter the bloodstream, and sucking the wound won't get out enough venom to make a difference.
The smart steps:
•Call 911 for the location of the nearest emergency room.
•You may apply a light, constricting band of cloth inches above and below the bite (but not on either side of a joint). You don't want to restrict blood flow; you're aiming to reduce the amount of poison traveling to the lymph nodes.
•If possible, wash the wound with soap and water, and position it below the heart.
•Remove jewelry or footwear from the bitten extremity; the area may swell.
•If the snake is dead, bring it to the hospital. Carefully! Snakes can bite reflexively after they're goners. (You could take a photo.)
•Call the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) and ask for antivenin/antivenom medication to be at the hospital when you arrive. Also ask if you can email the photo to poison control and the emergency room.
•If you have to walk to safety, wait a few minutes for the poison to localize before starting out.
Q: I'm 30 pounds overweight and was planning to lose weight before getting pregnant. Well, I'm pregnant. So, am I at risk of gestational diabetes? And can I lose weight while I'm pregnant? — Anonymous
A: The answers are yes and no: Yes, you are at risk of gestational diabetes. And no, we do not recommend losing weight at this time — you should maintain your weight and add physical activity (walking a bit more than you now do can make a difference, plus exercise definitely reduces your risk of gestational diabetes). Get two pedometers, so you're never without one, and keep track of your steps, increasing what you do slowly and steadily.
And remember, you are eating for 1.1, not 2. You need to add only 10 percent more calories (the equivalent of adding about 12 walnuts a day to your diet during your first and second trimesters, and an apple plus the walnuts in your third trimester).
Avoid saturated and trans fats, simple sugars and syrups, and any grain that isn't 100 percent whole. You can see what we recommend (with great recipes!) in “YOU: Having a Baby, The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy.” (Check it out from your library.)
Today, 16 percent of pregnant women in North America develop gestational diabetes — twice as many as a few years ago. Some docs now suggest that pregnant women should get tested for gestational diabetes at 16 weeks (the norm is 24-28 weeks). If your glucose levels are elevated at that point, you can start early to lower them. Unchecked, they can affect your child, triggering obesity, diabetes and even behavioral problems.
If you want to do more than extra daily walking, we recommend that you talk to your obstetrician about the right physical activity for you. And if you don't like the recipes in our book, get a referral to a nutritionist, who will give you a meal plan for your whole pregnancy.
Your baby is lucky to have such a caring mom! Good luck!