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Snake bites

snake; bite; poison; anti-venom; snake bite; first aid ;


Keep yourself safe

  • Australia is home to many of the most poisonous snakes in the world.
  • Snakes will usually try to get out of your way if you let them know you are coming (you could try making thumping noises with your feet). The snake will be able to feel the vibration that thumping feet cause.
  • Do not try to touch or kill snakes that you see in the bush or around the house.
  • Wear shoes that cover your feet (eg joggers or boots) and long pants when walking through grass or the bush.
  • Do not put your hand into hollow logs or into spaces under stones where a snake might be hiding.
  • If you see a snake stay away from it, even if it is a really little one. Tell mum or dad or the nearest adult especially if the snake is near to your school or home.

But remember even though there are lots of poisonous snakes in Australia, and quite a lot of people get bitten by snakes, it is very rare for a person to die from a snake bite now.

  • Snake bite first aid does help keep the person alive.
  • There are treatments that also help a lot once medical help arrives.

What to do for snake bites

If a snake bites you or your friend, then you will need to know what to do.

Be prepared

  • Make sure that you carry a roll of crepe bandage or a scarf with you when you go for a walk through the bush or long grass.
  • Taking a mobile phone can also be very useful, as you can call for help if you need it. Sometimes mobile phones do not work in the bush - but you can often get help when you dial 000 even if you are out of your phone range.

First aid

  • If your phone works, call 000 (Australia) and ask for the ambulance service. They will be able to tell you what to do if you don't remember it all. They will also be able to start getting help to you.
  • Treat all possible snake bites the same way. You cannot know if it is truly a bite or if the snake is dangerous until later.
  • In Australia it is important that you do not wash the bite area. If there is some venom (poison) on the skin this can help doctors find out which snake caused the bite, so that they can give the right anti-venom to help fight the effect of the snake poison.
  • Snake venom travels slowly through the body and first aid treatment is to try to slow this down even more until help arrives.

What to do

  • Wrap a bandage firmly around the place where the bite is. This should not be so tight that the blood supply is cut off. If the bandage hurts it is too tight.
  • If the bite was on an arm or leg, wrap another bandage over as much of the limb as possible starting from the fingers or toes.
  • Do not take these bandages off - the doctor will take them off when there is special care available, eg in a hospital emergency department.
  • Stop the person from using the arm or leg by putting on a splint (this can be a long stick).
  • Keep the injured person still. Do not let the person walk to get to help, bring help to the person, or carry the person to help.
  • Try to keep the person calm. Poison spreads faster if the heart beats faster.

Some things NOT to do

  • Do not wait to see if the bite causes any problems, always treat it straight away.
  • Do not cut, wash or suck the bite. Ignore all those old cowboy movies where the hero sucked out the poison!
  • Do not use ice on the bite. It will not be helpful.
  • Do not try to catch the snake. Other people might get bitten too!
  • Do not waste time trying to identify the snake, even experts have trouble working out what snake it is and whether it might be poisonous.

Get help. The faster the better.

  • ambulanceIf you need to go somewhere to get help, either leave the person where he/she is with at least one other person, and send off two or more others to get help (remember bush walking safety rules, always walk in groups of two or more).
  • If there are at least two other people, you could try to carry the person to where help is.
  • Don't let the bitten person walk.

Important information

All snake bites should be treated as serious even if you think that the snake was not poisonous, or if you are not sure that the person was bitten.

Most snake bites are on the lower part of the leg.

The bite may not be painful even when poison goes in.

There MAY NOT be 2 fang marks.

Did you know?

  • Many Australian snakes are poisonous.
  • Snakes in Australia are protected and should be left alone.
  • A snake can 'unhinge' its jaws so that it can eat something 2 or 3 times the size of its own head.
  • A snake changes its skin many times during the year. As it loses the old one a new coat is already underneath. (Wouldn't it be interesting if we could get new clothes like that? What sort of clothes would you grow?)

Silently the snake
Slithers secretly
Towards its next meal.
Accidentally rustles a bush,
Victim hears.

By Jay

Dr Kim says

Dr Kim"Keep away from things that bite, like snakes and spiders. It's a good idea to be noisy when you are walking in the bush because snakes are shy and will go away if they sense you are there.

Watch where you put your feet.

If you want to watch and listen to wild life, stand still and quiet for a while."

If you want to find out more about snakes in Australia, visit this site   

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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