Snake Bite First Aid
Step One – Avoid Snakes (Duh!)
Common sense advice isn’t it, but many snake bites actually happen because somebody got too close, to begin with.
According to Dr Brian Fry from the University of Queensland, most people who are bitten trying to kill the snake or show off.
Step Two – Do NOT Move, Do NOT Wash, Do NOT Suck, Do NOT Cut, Do NOT Tourniquet!
The First Aid ‘do nots’, because people DO take the advice we won’t find in a First Aid manual.
‘Do not move’ applies whether you’re faced with a snake or have been bitten. Snakes tend to strike when they perceive something as a threat.
See this clip below which highlights that snakes are just as scared of you as you are of them. If you have been bitten, moving will circulate LYMPH, yes lymph
this is why we apply a firm pressure bandage, not a tourniquet. The goal is to stop the spread of lymph to a node such as in the groin or armpit where it then enters the bloodstream.
Step Three – Apply a Broad Pressure Bandage
Snake Bite Treatment
Every time I go into the hinterland now I am glad that I’m fully prepared with a simple bandage for either those nasty ankle sprains or a potential snake bite now that starts at 3.85.
Or you could carry a simple versatile bite kit with a cold pack and variety of bandages and guide to Australian Bites and stings. Remember the bandage should ideally cover the entire limb, leave the very ends of toes and fingers exposed to check capillary refill, ideally a splint should be used to further immobilise the limb until emergency services arrive.
Signs and Symptoms
The bite site is usually painless. It may have classically paired fang marks, but this is not the most common picture. Often there are just a few lacerations or scratches, and sometimes these may be painless or go unnoticed. Bruising, bleeding, and local swelling may be present, but significant local tissue destruction is uncommon in Australia.
- (<1hr) A headache (an important symptom), irritability, photophobia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion; coagulation abnormalities; occasionally sudden hypotension with loss of consciousness.
- (1-3 hrs) Cranial nerve paralysis (ptosis, diplopia, dysphagia etc), abdominal pain, haemoglobinuria, hypertension, tachycardia, haemorrhage.
- (>3hrs) Limb and respiratory muscle paralysis leading to respiratory failure, peripheral circulatory failure with pallor and cyanosis, myoglobinuria, eventually death.
Snakebite should always be considered in any case of unexpected confusion or loss of consciousness following outdoor activities in snake country.
Welcome to South East Queensland
The eastern coastal regions of Australia is home to some of the potentially deadliest snakes including:
- Common / Eastern Brown – Aggressive, fast-spreading venom, ranked 2nd most venomous, responsible for more deaths than any other species, found all over Australia
- Taipan – Not confrontational, 3rd most venomous snake in the world (Brisbane to Darwin), the amount of venom retrieved from just one milking from one Taipan is enough to kill many million mice.
- Tiger Snake – The characteristic stripes are not seen all the time, can actually have no stripes at all. Southern Area of Australia
- Red Bellied Black Snake – not aggressive, venom is not as potent as others. Can ‘jump’ in the air if disturbed or chased.
- Death Adder – Not likely to bite unless touched, will hide from you, found all over Australia apart from some parts of Victoria and Tassie.