Snake Bite First Aid

In Australia there are approximately 3000 snake bites annually but only 200-500 require the administration of anti-venom. Furthermore, only 1-3 bites prove to be fatal. It should be noted that a significant proportion of snake bites can be attributed to an individual intentionally trying to catch or kill a snake. Despite these figures, it is still of the utmost importance to treat every snake bite as potentially life threatening and follow the correct first aid methods as snake identification can never be assured.

First and foremost, follow the St John DRSABCD Action Plan and call triple 000 for an ambulance.

Snake Bite Management

  • Reassure the patient and ensure they don’t move
  • Apply a firm bandage over the bite site asap, similar pressure as you would for  a sprain.
  • Bandage the whole limb tightly without stopping blood supply (start from the fingers or toes and work upwards to cover as much of the limb as possible).
  • Splint the affected limb
  • Keep the patient as still as possible (including fingers and toes)
  • Make note of the time of the bite, site of the bite and when the bandage was applied (mark on top of the bandage if possible)
  • If a bite occurs to the head, neck or torso region of the body firm pressure should be applied locally with a pressure dressing or any makeshift material available at the time.

Snake Bite Myths

There are many myths surrounding snake bites. St John Ambulance Australia recommend you DO NOT:

  • Do not wash venom off the skin
  • Do not cut the bitten area
  • Do not try to suck venom out of the wound
  • Do not use a tourniquet
  • Do not try to catch the snake

Knowing basic first aid saves lives and this information is not a substitute for formal first aid training.

Snake bite and Pets

Due to the natural hunting instincts of our furry four legged companions encounters with snakes do occur on occasions. Signs and symptoms to indicate that your pet may have suffered an envenomation include

  • Localised swelling
  • Excess salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Involuntary shaking or twitching of muscles
  • Sudden weakness and collapse
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blood in urine
  • Paralysis

It is advised that regardless of signs and symptoms being present in your pets that a veterinary visit be made if an encounter with a snake has occurred. Upon arrival at the vets inform them of the encounter and ask to have a seat in the waiting room for a period of time. This will ensure quick emergency care if signs and symptoms start to appear.