First Aid Tips – How to Treat Australian Snake Bites

First Aid Tip

How to treat an Australian snake bite

What can we say, here in Australia we’re known for our dangerous wildlife, and top of that list is the humble snake. Ok, snakes aren’t exactly known for being humble, but did you know that even our deadliest snakes like the Eastern Brown snake or the Inland Taipan, aren’t actually aggressive and will only bite to defend themselves or their young.

There are around 3000 snake bites recorded in Australia every year and Summer is by far the snake’s favourite time to plant their fangs.

While it’s best to be overcautious about snake bites and treat for the worst-case scenario, the majority of bites are not poisonous.

The best first aid treatment for all Australian snake bites according to the Australian Resuscitation Council, which is our authority on first aid protocols, is to minimise the venom’s movement through the body using the Pressure Immobilisation Technique or PIT for short.

To apply the PIT, first be sure that the scene is clear of danger and follow these 5 steps:

  1. Lie the person down or sit them up supported and stop all movement. Don’t wash the bandage, nor cut and suck the bite. Gross! and please, do NOT try to catch or kill the snake, or you’ll likely end up with a matching bite of your own!
  2. Call 000 and try your best to calm the person down as this will slow down their breathing and pulse rate and may slow the transport of venom through the lymphatic system.
  3. Apply a wide compression bandage to the bitten limb, starting at the fingers or toes and bandaging up toward the body to cover the entire limb. Any wide elasticised bandage will do, but you can now get bandages specifically for snake bites which have a tension indicator to help achieve the ideal compression.
  4. Mark the bandage at the bite site for reference at the hospital.
  5. And finally, immobilise the bitten limb in a sling or by slinting it to a rigid object of similar length or even the opposite leg.

Now the best you can do is wait patiently for the ambulance to arrive while encouraging the person to stay calm.

For a handy quick reference guide on the go for this and other first aid tips this summer, we recommend downloading the free app produced by the Australian Venom Research Unit called Australian Bites & Stings.

References

https://resus.org.au/wpfb-file/anzcor-guideline-9-4-1-snake-bite-april-2021-pdf/

https://www.perthnow.com.au/news/australia/queensland-begins-2021-with-a-horror-run-of-snake-bites-ng-b881777677z

What is your career journey?

To discover how you can become a fully qualified Ambulance Paramedic or Basic/Advanced Life Support Medic, complete a personalised paramedical career development plan.