Australia is known world wide as the land of milk and honey. We are so fortunate that we have a country of pristine beaches, immaculate rainforests, rolling country sides and, you guessed it, seven of the ten most dangerous snake species in the world. Making our country side one of the most dangerous places you can visit.
Australians are accustomed with living with these deadly creatures, many of which can be found in or around our homes, in gardens or wood piles. Even around my own home in the City of Brisbane these dangerous small creatures lurk and play. We often will walk outside to find something curled up at our front fence.
All though not every snake species is venomous, if you are bitten by a snake you should always treat it as if it was venomous by applying the pressure immobilization technique. Most people in Australia are not familiar with what is venomous and what is not and in the case of a snake bite, applying a pressure immobilisation bandage quickly could mean the difference between dying or just getting sick.
The pressure immobilization technique works by restricting the lymphatic flow beginning at the toes or fingers and work upwards for the whole limb as far as you can go. The Australian Resuscitation Guidelines state that it is preferable to bandage upwards from below the bite, although it will probably squeeze a small amount of venom centrally; it collapses vessels and is far more comfortable.
If you bind down a limb, rather than up the limb, we have a situation in which it will produce venous congestion and discomfort, so always ensure that the pressure the bandage is applied no greater then what you would apply for a sprained ankle, immobilise the limb with splints or slings and bring medical transport to the patient.
In particular ensure that you call an ambulance immediately. In Australia you would dial 000 (triple zero) for an ambulance or in the United States of America you will dial 911.
It is essential that there are some key activities that you do not do and let me be very clear on this:
– do not kill the snake for purpose of identification
– do not cut or excise the bite site
– do not suck the venom from the bite site
– do not use an arterial tourniquet when treating a snake bite
– do not wash or clean the bite site
– do not elevate the bite site
– do not walk the patient
– do not remove the bandage at any stage
Identification of venomous snakes can be made from venom present on the clothing or skin, so do not try and kill the snake for purposes of identification. Doctors use special kits that help in the identification of the venom. All Australian hospitals carry snake anti-venom. You should also be aware that anti-venom is available for all venomous Australian snakes
If you do live in a location where snakes are regularly seen then it is recommended that you have a snake bite bandage available. In our own home, we have one always available on our kitchen counter.