Snake bites are an unfortunate reality of living in Australia, and our country is one of the only ones in the world home to more venomous snakes than non-venomous species.
With that in mind, it pays to know how to treat a snake bite.
Before we get into it let’s just say: forget everything you’ve seen in the movies about dealing with snake bites! Hollywood definitely didn’t get it right on this one, and you need to make sure you:
- Never wash the venom off the skin
- Never cut the bitten area
- Never try and suck venom from the bite
- Never use a tourniquet and
- Never try to catch the snake
- Signs and Symptoms Of A Snake Bite
One thing to be aware of when it comes to snake bites is snakes are incredibly fast, and people may not always be aware that they have been bitten by a snake. There may be puncture marks, bleeding or scratches, but just because there are no signs, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
Symptoms of a snake bite usually develop within an hour following the bite, although for some the onset time might be faster. Keep an eye out for:
- Difficulty seeing
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling drowsy
- Difficulty speaking and swallowing
How To Treat A Snake Bite
If you suspect a snake bite, do not wait until symptoms have begun to set in. Begin treatment immediately by following these steps.
Assess The Situation
Assessing the situation is best done using the DRSABCD method. This means making sure the patient, yourself and others are safe from Danger. Checking the patient for a Response. Making, or asking someone else to make, a call to Triple Zero (000) to Send for help. Making sure the patient’s Airway is open and clear. Checking that their Breathing is normal, placing them in the recovery position if it is, and if not starting CPR and later if needed Defibrillation.
Recovery Position & Treatment
If your patient is responsive and is breathing normally, you can put them into the recovery position while you treat the snake bite. The recovery position ensures that the patient can breathe easily, but it should only be attempted if it will not hinder access to the bitten area. Once the patient is comfortable, it’s time to treat the bite. Remember, with any suspected snake bite an ambulance should already have been called at this point.
Wrapping The Area
Snakes bites happen most often on the limbs of the body, that is the arms and legs. When treating a snake bite it’s important that the patient knows to keep as still as possible. Start by wrapping the bite site in a broad crepe bandage as soon as you can after the bite. Following that, wrap the entire limb starting above the fingers or toes, moving upwards as far as you can go (including the bite). This bandage should be applied as firmly as possible, but blood supply to the limb should not be stopped. It is not the intention here to halt blood supply.
Supporting The Limb
Now that the limb is wrapped it’s time to fully immobilise the bandaged area. This can be done with splints. Make sure the patient does not move during this process. Keep track of the time that the patient reported being bitten, and the time you applied the bandage, as the paramedics will want this information when they arrive on the scene. It’s important that you stay with the patient, and regularly check their fingers/toes to ensure circulation is maintained.
With something as stressful as a snake bite, shock management is an inherent part of the treatment even at a first air level. It’s important that the patient is reassured and kept as calm as possible. It may also be a good idea to loosen any tight clothing, particularly around the waist, neck and chest. Keep a careful eye on the patient, keeping them warm with a blanket, and allowing them to have a small amount of water. It’s also important that you keep a close eye on their breathing, pulse and skin colour, immediately placing them in the recovery position if they have trouble breathing, lose consciousness, or appear as though they are going to vomit.
Do you know other effective treatments for snake bites?
For More Information:
All First Aid information in this article was sourced from the St. John Ambulance Australia website. You can read more about First Aid treatments and courses here. Remember that in an emergency always dial Triple Zero (000) for assistance.
SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.
If you become concerned about any symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice – https://www.stayathomemum.com.au/my-kids/babies/important-hotlines-websites/