Australia has around 100 venomous snakes - 12 with a bite that can kill, and on average 2 people die annually from venomous snake bites. More deaths would no doubt result if we did not have access to anti-venom to treat these bites. When a snake bite has occurred, it is not necessary to catch or kill the snake in order to identify it.
Australia has around 100 venomous snakes — 12 with a bite that can kill.
This article summarises some important advice on how to identify snakes and also how to treat bites inflicted by these snakes.
The obvious concern with snake bites is determining the species of the snake and understanding whether its bite will be life-threatening.
But even when a snake is deemed harmless, its bite can still cause the victim to become infected or suffer severe allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis.
This is why First Aiders treat all snake bites as potentially life-threatening and why it's important to call for emergency assistance when someone is bitten.
Australia is well known for having some of the deadliest snakes in the world, capable of causing death from a single bite.
Some side effects of a venomous snake bite include:
In Australia, on average, 2 people die annually from venomous snake bites. More deaths would no doubt result if we did not have access to anti-venom to treat these bites. When a snake bite has occurred, it is not necessary to catch or kill the snake in order to identify it.
Killing a snake is not recommended. This would be better managed by an experienced snake handler. Your local council can usually help.
A venom detection kit can be used to determine the snake responsible. Venom present on the victim’s clothes or on the skin is all that is needed for the kit. This is why it’s important not to wash the wound or discard clothing after a snake attack. In regard to killing snakes, the following video will help clarify the legal aspects. You'll notice that the speaker in the video makes ready reference to things not always going to plan for people who pick up a shovel aiming to kill a snake.
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Snake bites can be 'dry' or 'venomous'. Both of these bites have corresponding symptoms and it's important to remember that even a non-venomous bite could still cause a reaction that can be life threatening if treated incorrectly.
This type of bite involves a snake striking its victim without releasing venom and it’s often painful when the attack occurs. The difficulty with a dry bite is that it’s hard to tell if there’s venom present.
Some of the other symptoms that result from a dry bite are swelling and redness. While the skin may be punctured, this type of snake bite doesn’t require anti-venom.
As previously mentioned, even with a dry bite, call 000 — treat it as a medical emergency in case of complications, such as an infection or anaphylaxis.
Unlike a dry bite, a venomous snake bite involves a snake strike with venom (poison) being released. The venom in a snake bite has poisons that have the capacity to either numb, stun, or even kill another creature.
For all types of snake bites, First Aid always regards it as an emergency. Call 000 for an ambulance and always be prepared to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as necessary.
Where the snake bite has been to a limb, hand, or foot, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage. For areas of the body where a pressure bandage cannot be applied, make sure you maintain firm pressure — this is vital to help stop venom circulating throughout the body.
Applying a pressure immobilisation bandage:
There is also a danger that the snake bite victim might have a severe allergic reaction and go into anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Some of the symptoms of anaphylactic shock are:
This highlights the need to call Emergency 000 without delay.
Victims of snake bite who have a history of anaphylaxis, may have an action plan in place which includes administering an injection of epinephrine using an auto injector. Check and take action accordingly.
A large number of cases in Australia involve people who have been bitten while trying to either capture or kill a snake. When you see a snake, if you back away it will generally go on its way, leaving you alone. Not surprisingly, snakes are more likely to attack in self defence. Let sleeping snakes lie.