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Geoff Coombe
Geoff Coombe
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Ritas Outback Guide
  Living with Wildlife
dot How to deal with Snake Bite in Australia  

Injected venom is mainly distributed via the body's lymphatic system, which is heavily influenced by patient movement.

Decreased victim movement = decreased venom distribution.

Recent medical research shows that the speed of application of an effective pressure-immobilisation bandage and splinting
influences patient outcome and survivability.

  1. Ensure that the patient (and other people) are no longer at risk.
  2. Reassure the patient. Encourage him/her to lie down and keep still.
         It is critical that the bitten part and the patient do not move.
  3. Monitor airway, breathing and circulation, and be prepared to give resuscitation.
  4. First aid MUST be started immediately.
         Do not ignore a trivial bite, especially if suspected from a Brown Snake.
  5. Contact Ambulance Emergency number - 000 (unless in outback areas)
         Follow professional advice regarding transport of patient.
  6. Do not interfere with the bite in any way
         Do not wipe or wash skin, do not apply tourniquet, chemicals or devices.
  7. Remove all jewellery from the bitten limb.
  8. Keep the limb still until bandage and splint have been applied.

  9. Apply elasticised bandage with even pressure:

    1. Start at extremity and work up arm or leg
    2. Include fingers or toes to minimise movement
    3. Be careful not to apply bandage too loosely
    4. Use same pressure as when bandaging a sprained wrist or ankle
    5. Mark location of bite on bandage (for venom detection in hospital).
  10. Bandage over clothing or cut up seam to allow access to skin.
  11. The patient must remain still. Bring transport to the patient if possible.
  12. Immobilise the limb with a splint, or improvise as necessary.

    1. Ensure that joints (of arm or leg) are effectively immobilised
    2. Use second bandage to keep splint in place.
  13. Don't give food or drink except sips of water (only at the patient's request)
  14. The patient must be transported quickly and passively to the hospital (preferably by ambulance)
  15. Where possible, let paramedics be in total charge of extrication planning. It is best to stay quiet and let them arrange transport.
(These recommendations are based on information from the Clinical Toxinology Short Course 2010, the Toxinology Resources website ( and advice from Chris Cotton, Intensive Care Paramedic, South Australian Ambulance Service, 2011.)


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