The Do’s and Don’ts of dealing with snakebites

The crisp bite of winter is making way for warm spring weather, which means snake season is here! It’s critical those on the land know how to respond to a snakebite emergency. Here is our quick guide.

According to the The Australian Snakebite Project, snakes are found in every state and territory of Australia and most snake attacks occur near houses, not in the bush. Bites primarily occur while people are out walking, gardening and trying to catch a snake.

There are around 3,000 reported snakebites each year in Australia, resulting in 500 shospital admissions and an average of two fatalities.

In those attacks in which the snake was positively identified, the brown snake was the most common biter (41%), followed by the tiger snake (17%) and red-bellied black snake (16%).

Common symptoms of a snake bite include an unexplained collapse, vomiting and abdominal pain, bleeding or paralysis, which is why it is extremely important to act quickly.

Staying in the area after an attack can be dangerous and recent advances in medication mean that any snakebite can be treated with a generic polyvalent anti-venom, so identification is no longer necessary.

Important dos and don’ts for snake bites

  • Do NOT wash the area of the bite or try to suck out the venom. It is extremely important to retain traces of venom for use with venom identification kits.
  • Do NOT incise or cut the bite, or apply a high tourniquet. Cutting or incising the bite won’t help. High tourniquets are ineffective and can be fatal if released.
  • Do bandage firmly, splint and immobilise to stop the spread of venom. All the major medical associations recommend slowing the spread of venom by placing a folded pad over the bite area and then applying a firm bandage. It should not stop blood flow to the limb or congest the veins. Only remove the bandage in a medical facility, as the release of pressure will cause a rapid flow of venom through the bloodstream.
  • Do NOT allow the victim to walk or move their limbs. Use a splint or sling to minimise all limb movement. Put the patient on a stretcher or bring transportation to the patient.
  • Do seek medical help immediately as the venom can cause severe damage to health or even death within a few hours.

More information on the treatment of snake bite can be found here.


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