I have heard people say, “the only good snake, is a dead snake”. While it is an amusing turn of phrase, let us not forget that these creatures play a significant role in controlling vermin and other pests.
Snakes demand respect. Australia is abundant with the deadly and the dangerous. A few of our local celebrities, found in South Australia, include the Eastern Brown Snake, Inland Taipan, King Brown, Red-bellied Black Snake and the Southern Death Adder.
Their venoms can consist of a toxic cocktail of myotoxins, neurotoxins, hemotoxins, blood coagulants and nephrotoxins that cause cell, tissue, blood or organ degeneration and can ultimately result in death of the victim.
Snake sightings and incidents are not isolated to the bush, outback and waterways. Not only do snakes dwell in our parks and gardens; it is not unusual to see news stories of close encounters in the city and suburbia! So here are a few tips to keep you safe:
No. 1 Be aware – snakes exist in your surroundings!
No. 2 Be tidy – around the home and at work. Remove rubbish, garden waste and other items that are laying around; they are a perfect hiding place for snakes. Also ensure to clean up around pet food bowls – anything that might attract mice or rats will in turn attract snakes.
No. 3 Teach your children – make them aware of the dangers, teach them to stay away, do not touch and if they have a close encounter, “Be a tree”. This was a valuable bit of advice from a professional snake catcher recently - if there is a snake close by tell children to be a tree. A snake will strike a moving object, however, if you stand still and it perceives no threat, chances are it will have a curious look and move right along…
No. 4 Where there’s water… Fact: snakes get thirsty too. If you have pet water bowls, swimming pools, kids water toys and birdbaths, etc. around, a thirsty reptile will see it as an opportunity. Use caution and remove any water containers not needed to reduce the risk.
No. 5 Dress the part – if you work, live or leisure somewhere that you expect snakes to be, wear enclosed shoes, thick socks and long pants to protect your feet, ankle and lower leg area. Working In the garden you might consider leather gloves and long sleeves to protect your hands and arms.
No. 6 Dead and deadly - Even after death, a snake can be dangerous. Nerve function remains active after a snake dies. Their bodies twitch and spasm which means you can still get bitten by a dead snake… Any venom that is stored in the venom gland can be injected into a victim if pressure is applied to the fangs.
No. 7 Know what to do – if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a snakebite, having the right training and first aid resources can save your life.
Recognise the symptoms
Snake bites can be painless, may be mistaken for a scratch and sometimes there are no visible marks. Paired fang marks might be present, and often only a single mark or a scratch is visible.
Some other symptoms and signs may include:
- Severe pain around the bite (immediate or delayed)
- Redness, swelling, bruising, blistering, ulceration, pus or black tissue bruising around the bite or up the limb
- Bleeding from the bite site or from the nose, gums, in spit, vomit or bowel movement
- Numbness, tingling or burning sensations
- Headache, fever or chills, twitching or seizures
- Feeling anxious
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Blurred or double vision
- Difficulty speaking, swallowing or breathing
- Swollen, tender glands in the groin or armpit of the bitten limb
- Limb weakness or paralysis
- Respiratory weakness or respiratory arrest
- Occasionally, initial collapse or confusion followed by partial or complete recovery
Snake bite first aid
Now we are at the pointy end of the article, (sorry, couldn’t resist), the first aid. Now, this article in not intended to replace the benefits of a great nationally accredited First Aid training course, so don’t forget to keep your first aid accreditations up-to-date. In the meantime, here is a quick guide on first aid for snakebite.
Step 1 Check for danger to self, casualty and others.
Particularly if you are helping the snakebite victim – you don’t want to become the second casualty…
Step 2 Check casualty response – if the casualty is unconscious and not breathing it is necessary to immediately commence CPR
Step 3 Send for help – call “000” to request an ambulance (or have the casualty call while you are treating them).
Step 4 Keep the casualty still, stop them from moving around, reassure them and keep them under constant observation. Movement causes the venom to move into the blood stream
Step 5 Start first aid treatment
- Do not remove clothing around the bite site; you want to minimise casualty’s movement
- Apply a pressure bandage over the bite site as soon as possible, encircling the limb and applying firm pressure (approx. 90% of bites are to limbs). Elasticised compression bandages of 10-15cm width are ideal (any flexible material such as clothing, towels etc. can be torn into strips and used in an emergency).
- Check the bandage is firm and tight - you should be unable to easily slide a finger between the bandage and the skin
- Immobilise the limb
- Using another pressure bandage, start bandaging from fingers or toes of the limb extending upwards covering as much of the limb as possible (to armpit or groin if possible)
- This bandage further restricts lymphatic flow and helps to keep the limb still
- Do not remove the bandages
- Apply a splint (or sling for arm) to the limb to further restrict movement. Any rigid object may be used – spade, piece of wood/tree branch, rolled up newspaper etc.
- Keep the victim and the limb completely at rest
- Do not elevate the limb above heart level
- It is preferable to bring transport to the casualty if possible, rather than to transport them to medical care (preferably by ambulance)
- IF ALONE, apply pressure bandages as completely as possible over the bite site and affected limb. Stay immobile until assistance arrives.
If the bite is not on a limb…
If the bite is not on a limb, apply firm direct pressure on the bite site. Keep applying pressure until medical assistance arrives. It is usual for venom to be detectable around the site of the bite – as a safety precaution, avoid contact with the venom and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves if available.
What not to do
- Do not wash the bite site – the venom is useful for identifying the type of snake
- Do not cut or incise or suck the bite – it is not possible to remove venom from the system this way. It is more important to urgently apply pressure and immobilise the limb or affected area.
- Do not use a tourniquet – the prolonged or incorrect use of tourniquet can result in nerve damage, tissue death, circulatory complications and is extremely painful for the casualty
- Do not restrict breathing or chest movement
- Do not apply firm pressure to the neck or head
Is your First Aid accreditation up-to-date?
If the last time you attended training it was called a senior first aid course, your certificate is probably out of date…
Tactical Training is a Nationally Accredited training provider for first aid courses in Adelaide and surrounding areas.
The current versions of First Aid courses include the following:
- HLTAID001 Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- HLTAID002 Provide basic emergency life support
- HLTAID003 Provide first aid*
*Is the replacement of the old Senior First Aid courses
Currency of First Aid training
First Aid training should be renewed every 3-years (mandatory for workplace first aiders under WHS requirements). CPR training should be renewed every 1-year, as recommended by the Australian Resuscitation Council.
Need a First Aid group training session?
Tactical Training delivers First Aid courses at our training facility for group or individual bookings, or we can come to your workplace.
Need more information?
Tactical Training (Australia) Pty Ltd is a nationally accredited provider for first aid training. Contact our friendly Customer Care team on:
08 8331 1620