Snakes are on the move - are you prepared?

Recent media has suggested that although 20 of the world’s most deadly 25 species of snakes call Australia home, many members of the public are unsure of the correct first aid treatment.

Snake bite incidents are already occurring this season, and St John Ambulance (Qld) is recommending all Queenslanders familiarise themselves with the correct first aid treatment for treating snake bites.  

St John (Qld) first aid expert Mark Richards said there were many myths involving first aid treatment for snake bites, and it was important for Queenslanders to know fact from fiction.

“A common myth is sucking the venom out of a snakebite - this will simply spread the poison to another person, and you will have two victims instead of one,” he said.

“Do not wash the bitten area or try to catch the snake - your first step in any situation is to follow the DRSABCD action plan (Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR, and Defibrillation).”

“Ensure the casualty is relaxed as much as possible; reassure them that everything will be ok - this will slow down the time it takes for the venom to go through the body,”Mark said.

“Apply a pressure bandage with immobilisation, then splint the bandaged limb.” 

“Mark the site of the bite on the bandage and write down as much information as you can, such as the time of the bite, a description of the snake and when the bandage was applied.”

Mark said common symptoms of a snake bite victim included a headache, nausea, drooping eyelids, drowsiness and problems speaking.

“Irrespective of what type of snake bite your casualty, always call triple zero ‘000’ for an ambulance.”   

In Australia, there are about 3,000 snake bites per year, of which 200 to 500 receive anti-venom; on average one or two will prove fatal. About half the deaths are due to bites from the brown snake. The rest are mostly from tiger snake, taipan and death adder.

Source:  www.anaesthesia.med.usyd.edu.au/resources/venom/snakebite.html 

Signs and symptoms of snakebite

Signs of snakebite are not always visible and symptoms may only start to appear an hour or more after the person has been bitten. 

Symptoms that can develop in the first hour or more

• Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

• Headache

• Double or blurred vision

• Drooping eyelids

• Bleeding from the bite site

• Breathing difficulties

• Drowsiness, giddiness or fainting

• Problems speaking or swallowing voice change

• Pain or tightness in the chest throat or abdomen

• Respiratory weakness or arrest

• Dark urine

Symptoms that can develop up to 3 hours after the bite

• Limb paralysis

• Hypoxia

• Cyanosis

• Decrease in the level of consciousness

Snake bite management

• DRSABCD (Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR and Defibrillation)

• Rest and reassure the casualty

• Pressure immobilisation bandage

• Seek medical aid urgently

Do not

• Wash venom off skin

• Cut the bitten area

• Try and suck venom out

• Use tourniquet

• Attempt to catch snake

• Allow casualty to walk

These first aid tips are not a substitute for first aid training. St John Ambulance (Qld) offers a range of first aid courses including CPR, Provide First Aid, Resuscitation and Workplace First Aid. For more information visit www.stjohnqld.com.au or call 1300 ST JOHN (78 5646).

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