Denim May Guard Against Rattlesnake Bites

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Wearing a sturdy pair of denim pants may be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to preventing rattlesnake bites, according to a study recently published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

It stands to reason that any kind of barrier might foil the skin-penetrating force of a snake or other animal, but until now, there wasn't direct evidence that jeans could help to prevent the damage inflicted by such attacks. 

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For the study, Shelton Herbert of Loma Linda University and co-author William Hayes devised a clever method to test their denim protection theory. 

They created model human limbs out of warm, saline solution-filled gloves. One glove was left bare, while another was covered with denim. Each was used to elicit defensive strikes from small and large southern Pacific rattlesnakes. 

While denim didn't offer 100 percent protection, "the snakes injected significantly less venom into denim-covered

gloves than bare gloves during defensive strikes, with a 60% reduction

for small snakes and 66% for large snakes," Herbert and Hayes report.

The snakes used for the study apparently couldn't tell any difference between the denim and non-denim targets, since latency to bite, the number of strikes and the duration of fang contact during the bite were similar for both types of filled gloves.

The researchers believe the "denim interfered with venom delivery, including the high proportion of dry bites for denim-covered gloves and the large quantity of venom spilled harmlessly on the denim

cover. Large rattlesnakes struck more readily, maintained longer fang

contact during the bite, and delivered 26 to 41 times more venom into

gloves than small snakes."

They conclude that "denim clothing proved effective at reducing venom injection by both small and large rattlesnakes. Wearing long denim pants as an alternative to shorts may provide a simple, low-cost means of reducing the severity of snakebites."

So the next time you plan to go out for a hike where poisonous snakes and other biting animals are known to dwell, skip the shorts and instead pull on some good quality, thick material jeans.

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