Avoiding snake bites
Although there are twelve potentially dangerous species of snake in Queensland, it is rare that you will see one, let alone be at risk of being bitten by one. Snakes sense the vibration of approaching footsteps and tend to flee into the undergrowth.
If you see a snake, the best way to avoid being bitten is simply to leave the snake alone. In addition:
- Wear boots and trousers or gaiters when bushwalking. Do not wear sandals or thongs.
- Be aware of where you are placing your feet.
- Do not put hands or feet in or under logs, rocks, hollows, crevices or debris without checking first that there is no snake there.
- When in the bush, check inside your shoes, clothes and sleeping bag before using them.
- Use a torch when walking around campsites or the bush at night.
- Do not interfere with a snake if pets or other people have already provoked it.
- Do not handle injured snakes. A hurt animal is a much more dangerous animal, as it is fighting for its life.
- Know appropriate first aid for treating snake bites.
First aid for snake bites
If you are unlucky enough to be bitten, here is what you should and should not do. Assume ALL snakes are venomous, and take the following action:
- Do not panic. Try to remain calm, lie down and immobilise the bitten area. It is unlikely that the bite will be life-threatening.
- Apply a bandage but do not block circulation. Take a broad bandage and bind along the limb starting at the bite area, at the same pressure as for a sprain. Then bandage down the limb and continue back up the entire limb over and above the bite area. This will help prevent the spread of the venom through the body. Do not remove the bandage. It is often easier to go over the top of clothing such as jeans rather than remove clothing. In an emergency, strips of clothing or pantyhose can be used instead of a bandage.
- Immobilise the limb with a splint. Lie down and keep the limb completely still until help arrives. Do not elevate the limb or attempt to walk or run. Movement will encourage the spread of the venom through the body.
- Do not attempt to catch the snake. All too often, the snake will bite again if an attempt is made to catch it. Identification of the snake species can be obtained through samples of the patient's blood or urine, and from venom around the bite area. If the species of snake still remains uncertain, a poly-antivenene may be used, which is suitable for treatment of all venomous snake bites.
- Do not wash the wound. Venom left on the skin will help doctors identify the snake and administer the appropriate antivenene.
- Do not cut the wound. This will spread the venom into the bloodstream and can cause more serious injuries than the snake bite itself.
- Seek medical help. An antivenene may be required.