SNAKE BITE: KNOWING what to do if someone is bitten by a snake could save their life. Photo: Rob Williams
SNAKE BITE: KNOWING what to do if someone is bitten by a snake could save their life. Photo: Rob Williams

Hiss time to keep your eyes peeled and stay snake safe

HAVING a snakebite first aid kit is essential for anyone living in rural area according to the Rural Doctors Association of Australia.

“Tragically, already this snake season, we have seen a death from snakebite” RDAA President, Dr John Hall, said.

“It is critical that rural Australians know how to minimise the chance of getting bitten by a snake, and what to do if they are bitten.

“And for those who live on farms, work in more remote areas – or even just live in rural towns where ambulance response times can be longer due to distance – it is incredibly important to have the first aid equipment needed to initiate treatment, as it could help save your life.”

Dr Hall said it is important this should include heavy crepe bandages to pressure wrap a patient’s limb, immobilise the limb and slow the flow of venom through their lymphatic system.

“Snakes are a critical part of our ecosystem in Australia, and they do more good than harm in rural areas,” he said.

“But it is important to follow all the guidelines, and ensure you are well prepared, so you and your family can stay snake safe this summer”.

Tips for staying ‘snake safe’

  • Never attempt to catch, pick up, move or kill a snake, if you see a snake, back away slowly.
  • A snake will only bite if it feels threatened or is surprised. Call a professional if you need a snake relocated.
  • If you leave your shoes or boots outside, check before wearing and don’t put your hand inside.
  • When camping, keep tents and sleeping bags closed and shoes covered.
  • Never place your hands in warrens or holes.
  • Wear leather gloves if you have to handle debris, logs or rocks.
  • Nearly all snake bites occur on the ankles, hands and lower parts of the legs so covering these areas (closed shoes, gaiters, long-sleeved tops) will significantly reduce the possibility that a snake’s venom will enter your bloodstream (although you should always assume it has).
  • Snakes can still be active at night, so be careful.
  • Make your property less attractive to snakes, remove debris, leaflitter or woodpiles, cut back long grass and shrubs, block any holes around the outside of your house.
  • Keep pests under control and aviaries and chook pens secure and clean.
  • Treat all snakes as potentially dangerous, even if they’re tiny, baby snakes are just as dangerous as adults.
  • Treat dead snakes as dangerous, they can still have biting reflexes and the venom can remain on the fangs long after its death.

Treating a snakebite

  • Treat all suspected snakebites as life threatening. In Australia, bites might just look like a superficial scratch and not only two puncture wounds.
  • If someone is bitten it’s not necessary to catch or kill the snake first. The hospital can test the bite site to determine the species and treat the patient accordingly.
  • Never wash or cut the wound, as medicos will use venom on the skin to identify the snake.
  • Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage to the affected limb immediately, splint the limb, keep the patient still, and call an ambulance and/or go straight to hospital. Even in a remote location, you should keep the limb immobilised and stay calm and still.
  • The bandage should be applied to the whole length of the limb, and it should be as tight as you would strap a sprained ankle.
  • Don’t suck out the venom or apply a tourniquet instead of an immobilisation bandage.

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