Brown snake on the dirt with its tongue out

How Do I Provide First Aid for Snake Bites?

Learn First Aid for someone bitten by a snake.

Snake bites are not common in Australia, but all should be treated as life threatening. Snakes force venom out under pressure through fangs in the upper jaw. The spread of snake venom depends on its absorption through the lymphatic system. If someone is bitten by a snake, get help immediately.

worker with blue glove applying first aid technique to someone who has suffered a cut

How do I provide first aid for snake bites?

You should always provide emergency care if you or someone else is bitten by a snake — including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), if required.

Keep calm, and follow these steps:

  1. Follow DRSABCD.
  2. Urgent medical aid. Call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.
  3. Ensure the casualty does not move.
  4. Lay the casualty down, rest and reassure.
  5. If the bite is on a limb, apply a broad pressure bandage over the bite site as soon as possible.
  6. Then apply a further elasticised or firm bandage – start at fingers or toes and move up the limb as far as can be reached. Apply tightly but without stopping blood flow.
  7. Splint the limb including the joints on either side of the bite.
  8. Write down the time that the casualty was bitten and when the bandage was applied.
  9. If the casualty becomes unconscious and not breathing normally, Commence CPR and Defibrillation.

Pressure immobilisation bandage

A pressure immobilisation bandage is recommended for anyone bitten by a venomous snake. You should firmly bandage the area of the body involved — such as an arm or leg — and keep the person calm and still until medical help arrives.

Follow these steps to apply a pressure immobilisation bandage:

  1. First, put a pressure bandage over the bite itself. It should be tight and you should not be able to easily slide a finger between the bandage and the skin.
  2. Next, use a heavy crepe or elasticised roller bandage to immobilise the whole limb. Start just above the fingers or toes of the bitten limb and move upwards on the limb as far as the body. Splint the limb including joints on either side of the bite.
  3. Keep the person and the limb completely at rest. If possible, mark the site of the bite on the bandage with a pen.

Signs and Symptoms & What Not To Do

Signs and Symptoms

  1. Visible in an hour or more after the person has been bitten.
  2. In children, signs and symptoms may appear within minutes.
  3. Paired fang marks, but often only a single mark or a scratch mark may be present. Marks or scratches may bleed.
  4. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
  5. Headache, drowsiness, giddiness or faintness.
  6. Double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids.
  7. Voice changes, trouble speaking or swallowing. Pain or tightness in the throat, chest or abdomen.
  8. Breathing difficulties, respiratory weakness or arrest.

What Not To Do

  1. Wash the venom off the skin (it may aid in identification).
  2. Cut the bitten area and try to suck the venom out of the wound.
  3. Use a tourniquet.
  4. Try and catch the snake.

What different types of snake bite are there?

Because you can’t always tell if a bite is a dry bite, always assume you have been injected with venom and manage the bite as a medical emergency — call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Venomous bites

Venomous bites are when the snake bites and releases venom into a wound. Snake venom contains poisons that are designed to stun, numb or kill other animals.

Symptoms of a venomous bite include:

-severe pain around the bite — this might come on later
-swelling, bruising or bleeding from the bite
-bite marks on the skin — these might be obvious puncture -wounds or almost invisible small scratches
-swollen and tender glands in the armpit or groin of the limb that has been bitten
-tingling, stinging, burning or abnormal feelings around the skin
-feeling anxious
-nausea (feeling sick) or vomiting (being sick)
-blurred vision
-breathing difficulties
-problems swallowing
-stomach pain
-irregular heartbeat
-muscle weakness
-blood oozing from the gums or the site of the snake bite
-paralysis, coma or even death

In Australia, there are about 2 deaths each year from venomous snake bites.

To conclude Snake Bites & First Aid

Most snake bites happen when people try to kill or capture them. Don’t panic if you come across a snake. Back away to a safe distance and let it move away. Snakes often want to escape when disturbed.

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