Not all snake bites are venomous or fatal, but every snake bite should be treated as potentially life-threatening. Knowing how to treat a snake bite effectively could save someone’s life.
How to treat a snake bite
You should treat every snake bite as a medical emergency. That means following the emergency response DRS ABCD:
- Danger – Check for signs of danger and remove the victim away from the snake. Lay them down and provide reassurance. Try to remain calm.
- Response – Check for a response from the victim.
- Send for help – Call 000 immediately. If you are in a remote location and do not have a satellite phone, send someone to get help. The person with the snake bite should not be moved unless they are in danger.
- Check the airways – Make sure nothing is blocking the person’s airways, such as vomit.
- Breathing – Check their breathing by feeling for air leaving their nose and mouth and their chest moving up and down.
- CPR – If a person collapses from a snake bite and they don’t appear to be breathing, you must perform CPR straight away. Roll the victim onto their back, check their airway and apply 30 compressions. Provide 2 breaths then repeat the compressions at a 30:2 ratio. Continue administering CPR until medical attention arrives or a defibrillator is made available.
- Defibrillation – As soon as a defibrillator is available, you should use it. Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) (such as a Heartsine defibrillator) can be found in many public spaces and are designed to be used by anyone, not just medical professionals.
Find out more: How does a defibrillator work?
How to bandage a snake bite
A pressure immobilisation bandage is recommended for anyone who has received a snake bite on their arm or leg.
Do not wash the bite or attempt to remove the venom as it may be used by medical staff later on for snake identification.
Follow the steps below to apply a pressure immobilisation bandage:
- Wrap a pressure bandage over the bite area. It should be tight so that you cannot slide a finger easily between the bandage and the person’s skin. You can use a tension indicator to ensure the bandage has been applied using the correct firmness.
- Starting from just above the toes or fingers on the affected limb, wrap a roller bandage past the snakebite and as far up the limb as you’re able to.
- Apply a splint on the affected limb. If you need to, you can make a splint from items in your vicinity, for example, a tree branch, rolled-up newspaper or a length of wood. Make sure the victim stays still.
- Mark the site of the snake bite on the bandage with a pen or a bit of dirt.
- Note down the time the bite occurred and when you applied the bandage.
- Call triple zero (000) and wait with the victim. Make sure you monitor them and note any changes to their condition.
Allergic reactions to snake bites
Some people may experience a severe allergic reaction to a snake bite and go into anaphylactic shock (anaphylaxis). The signs of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, abdominal pain, dizziness or loss of consciousness.
Anaphylaxis is very serious and may even be fatal, so medical help should be called immediately.
If the person is aware of their allergies, they may be carrying an EpiPen which contains a dose of adrenalin. This should be administered in their mid-thigh if they go into anaphylactic shock.
Types of snake bites
Snake bites can be venomous or dry.
A dry bite is when no snake venom has been successfully released – this is the most common snake bite.
However, it is difficult to tell the difference between the two bites and so you should always treat a snake bite as if venom has been injected.
Dry bites can be painful and may cause swelling around the bite site. Once a dry bite has been inspected by a medical professional, no further treatment is usually required.
Venomous snake bites may cause symptoms such as severe pain, swelling, burning sensation, bite marks, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and collapse. Some may also cause paralysis or a coma.
Antivenom is used to treat venomous bites. Antivenom treatment is available for all types of venomous snakes in Australia. There are around 100 venomous snakes, but only 12 of them are likely to give a bite that is fatal (including brown snakes, tiger snakes and red-bellied black snakes).
Snake Bite Awareness Day
September 19th is Snake Bite Awareness Day – a great opportunity to spread awareness about how to treat a snake bite effectively.
There are around 3,000 snake bites and 2 deaths every year in Australia. Most snake bites occur when the snake is disturbed, provoked or when someone tries to handle the snake.
Follow these tips to prevent snake bites:
- Be careful where you put your hands and feet
- Wear protective clothing like thick jeans and boots
- Stay still and assess the situation before trying to move around a snake
- Never try to pick them up or interfere with them
- Block off entry points to your house
Order snake bite bandages and kits online today
It’s important to always be prepared, especially if you live in or are visiting an area where snakes are common. Schools, workplaces and other organisations should always have snake bite kits and trauma kits on hand to deal with emergencies promptly.
LFA First Response supplies a range of survival snake bite kits and snake bite bandages that feature the correct tension indicator, designed to ensure correct firmness when treating a snake bite.
All products we stock have unbeatable use by dates, are registered with the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) of Australia and are sourced from only the most trusted Australian suppliers. We offer free shipping on orders over $150.
If you would like assistance, please call our customer service team who will be able to answer any questions you have.