Did you know: Australia is home to 60 species of snakes, including the ten most lethal in the world according to the University of Sydney. And there are about 3,000 reported snakebites each year resulting in between 200 and 500 requiring anti-venom and an average of one or two fatalities.
Surprisingly, snakebites are often painless and may go unnoticed as tissue damage is mostly light - lacerations, scratches or light bruising along with some bleeding or swelling. Symptoms may include an unexplained collapse, vomiting and abdominal pain, bleeding or paralysis.
Myth busting: There are many dangerous myths and misconceptions about how to deal with a snakebite. The most important dos and don’ts include:
Do try to note the colour, size, distinctive markings and patterns of the snake without putting yourself at risk. A positive identification will help medics get the correct anti-venom into the patient more quickly.
Do stop the spread of venom - bandage firmly, splint and immobilise. 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 seek medical help immediately as the venom can cause severe damage to health or even death within a few hours.
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 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.
Advice on how to respond to a snakebite incident and other common first aid situations, including: a heart attack, choking, burns and severe bleeding for people with no medical training is all in the new ‘Fast First Aid’ booklet from the RFDS. It is especially invaluable for those who live on remote properties or in communities that may be some distance from medical help, but is not intended to replace calling 000 for medical aid in an emergency.”
Approved by RFDS health professionals, Fast First Aid’ is FREE and is available until mid-December 2016 in NSW and ACT only. To receive your copy text ‘NOW’ to 0428 044 444.