Snake Bite First Aid
What to do if you are bitten by a Snake.
- If someone is bitten by a snake, you won’t know if it’s a dry bite or a venomous bite – so to be safe, always treat any bite as a venomous bite.
- Dry bites, whereby no venom is released, are painful and cause localised redness and swelling.
- If the bite is venomous, other symptoms may include a stinging or burning sensation on the skin and feelings of nausea, dizziness, anxiousness and confusion. In severe cases, the bite may result in paralysis or coma.
- Only a handful of people die from a venomous snake bite in Australia each year. Knowing what to do if bitten by a snake and giving proper first aid is essential in keeping those numbers down and reducing them even further.
- Snake venom is carried in the lymphatic system and not in the blood stream, as many mistakenly believe. That’s why the main aim of snake bite first aid is to reduce lymphatic flow by applying continuous firm pressure over the affected limb. This is known as the Pressure Immobilisation Technique (PIT).
- Immediate first aid should be applied to any snake bite victim. Follow the steps below and don’t forget to read the DON’Ts printed in red at the bottom of our guide.
Lay the victim down and provide reassurance. CALL 000. Do not move the victim unless further danger is present.
With a broad (minimum 7.5cm wide) elastic bandage such as setopress, start at the toes (or hand if bitten on the arm) andwrap the bandage very firmly up the entire limb. If the bandage does not cover the entire limb, start with a new bandage at the point the last bandaged finished until the entire limb is covered.The compression bandage should be firm enough to reduce lymphatic movement but not constrict blood flow. Ensure you leave the tips of the toes/fingers out to monitor circulation.
The compression bandage should be firm enough to reduce lymphatic movement but not constrict blood flow. Ensure you leave the tips of the toes/fingers out to monitor circulation.
Once the entire limb has been covered, mark the bite site with a pen or some dirt from the ground. This is helpful for emergency services personnel.
Splint the limb (including joints) to prevent movement. For bites to the leg, this can be achieved by strapping the legs together using slings or other suitable material.
Bites to the arm can be supported in a sling or splinted. Do not remove the bandage once applied.
Make the victim comfortable and continue to provide reassurance until the arrival of emergency services.
DO NOT wash the bite site
DO NOT attempt to cut the venom out of the limb
DO NOT attempt to suck the venom out of the limb
DO NOT apply a tourniquet to the limb
DO NOT move the person unless in immediate danger
DO NOT try to catch and identify the snake
Using Setopress Bandages
The Australian Venom Research Unit recommends the use of setopress bandages. Setopress has many advantages over commonly used crepe bandages, however, in an emergency, any elasticised bandage should be used if setopress bandages are not available
For ease of application, the brown rectangles are printed off centre, which assists with providing a controlled wrap of half the width overlap on each turn. And because the bandage is textured, it won’t slip and will firmly stay in place.
Venomous Australian snakes
Australia has around 100 types of venomous snakes, 12 of which are capable of killing a human being with their bite.
The most dangerous Australian snakes include the Taipan, Tiger Snake, Brown Snake, Black snake, Death Adder, Copperhead, Mulga, Rough-scaled snake and several species of sea snake.
Most bites occur when people accidentally step on or try to handle snakes, so the best advice is to be always be aware and steer clear of any snakes you encounter.
In Australia, anti-venom is available for all venomous snake bites by indigenous snakes. Identification happens via any venom found on the clothes or the skin, which is why you should never wash or suck the bite out or dispose of clothing.
In Australia, it’s best to be prepared and practice giving first aid for snake bites. Our First Aid Courses on the Gold Coast make you a confident caregiver in first aid situations, so you’ll know exactly what to do if someone is bitten by a snake.