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Snake Bites and First Aid
Note this information is a guide for Australian snake bite only all medical advice must be sought from professional medical staff.
If someone is bitten by a snake, the early application of the correct first aid practices can greatly increase the chances of the patient making a full recovery. First aid measures are constantly advancing and improving, so it is important to stay current with the latest practices.
The following basic principals apply:
Seek urgent medical help in Australia, by calling triple zero ‘000’.
DO NOT wash the bite site.
Apply a pressure immobilization bandage and splint if on a limb or a pressure pad if the bite is to the head, neck or torso and minimize movement.
DO NOT catch, chase or kill the snake - this is extra movement (if done by the patient increasing blood flow) and could result in further bites.
DO NOT drink Alcohol, tea, stimulants, food or medication without expert advice.
DO NOT apply hot or cold packs, electrical shocks, suction devices or tourniquets/ligatures.
In the First Instance
The DRSABCD action plan should be followed:
D - look for Danger.
R - check for Response.
S - send for help.
A - clear the Airway.
B - sustain Breathing.
C - start CPR (if required).
D - apply a Defibrillator if indicated.
(DRSABCD is vital if a person has collapsed and is unresponsive)
Pressure Immobilization Bandaging (PIB) First Aid
There are two components that must be satisfied – pressure over the bitten limb and focal plus general immobilization. This involves the application of:
A broad (minimum 75mm wide) elastic bandage to the entire bitten limb at a very firm pressure of at least 40 mmHg for an arm and 55 mmHg for a leg. It is recommended to use SETOPRESS™ High Compression Bandages as these bandages relax very little with prolonged application. Splints to effectively immobilize the entire limb, in combination with laying the patient down and completely still to minimize any movement. Do not use a sling.
Move away from the area where the bite occurred (if required), lie the patient down and keep them calm. Any movement of the limb quickly results in venom absorption and must be prevented; therefore first aid must be an immediate priority after a snake bite.
Do not allow the patient to walk. In the case of a snake bite to a lower limb, splinting of both legs should be carried out to completely immobilize the lower half of the body.
In rare cases, a person may be bitten on the body, face or neck. In this case, direct pressure should be applied over the bite site with a pressure pad made from a cloth (a hand towel, t-shirt etc) and held firmly in place until medical attention can be sought.
Always seek medical attention following a snake bite.
Most bites occur when people are trying to move on, trap or kill native wildlife. This poor Eastern Brown Snake was caught up in soccer netting that had been left lying around. It took us quite some time to free him! Please call a professional, even when trying to help the reptile/animal may still bite out of fear.
Emergency calls from Australia: 000
Poisons Information Centre Australia: 13 11 26
Many people confuse the terms venomous and poisonous. Here in Australia we don't have poisonous snakes so it makes it a lot easier to define. As the chart shows us venom is injected and poison is injected or absorbed. If you are having a medical emergency, 000 will put you through to the right person to speak to.