We love Summer, well most of us do! And you can certainly feel that the temperatures are on their way up at the moment. That of course gets me all excited, it means that the snakes are out and about! I know that doesn’t excite some of you so I thought I would put pen to paper and maybe ease your mind a little bit. I have also given you some tips on how to avoid getting close enough to aggravate and getting bit!
So, here goes with some facts first.
Did you know that there are:
- 3000 bites are reported annually across Australia
- 300-500 hospitalisations
- 2-3 deaths every year
The average time from being bitten through to death is around 12 hours. The idea that you get bitten and drop-down dead in a matter of moments is an urban myth and totally untrue! Sorry to disappoint!
There are five category of snakes that will seriously hurt us. These are Browns, Blacks, Adders, Tigers and Taipans.
Snake venom is a highly modified saliva. It contains zootoxins that help the immobilization and digestion of prey. It is injected by unique fangs during a bite, and some species are also able to spit their venom. When bitten, a snake does not inject the venom into your blood. Instead it enters the meat of your limb.
This venom is not absorbed into the blood stream from the bite site. It travels around your body using the lymphatic system and not the blood stream as many believe.
The venom moves around your body through physical muscle movement. So, if you bend your arm or your legs you are assisting in the movement of the venom. Even a small movement such as wriggling your fingers or toes will do this too.
So, when you get bitten, the venom is injected into this lymph fluid (which makes up the bulk of the water in your tissues). The only way that the venom can get into your blood stream is to be moved from the bite site in the lymphatic vessels. The only way to do this is to physically move the limbs that were bitten.
Keep as still as you are able. Really, don’t move! Venom can’t move if you don’t move. Stay still!!
You may have heard of a technique that is called Pressure immobilisation bandaging. It was developed to further slow venom movement. It completely stops venom /lymph transport toward the blood stream. It is important to apply this type of bandaging as soon as possible. Do it without washing the bite site and apply directly over the site of the bite.
The bandage needs to be firm, but not so tight that it causes fingers or toes to turn purple or white. About the tension of a sprain bandage. Splint the affected area to ensure that the victim can’t walk or bend the limb.
- Do not cut, incise or suck the venom.
- Do not EVER use a tourniquet Don’t remove the shirt or pants – just bandage over the top of clothing. Remember movement (like wriggling out of a shirt or pants) causes venom movement.
- Don’t try to catch, kill or identify the snake!!! This is important.
The treatment in the hospital is the same for all snake bites so while identification is not required you should still not wash away the venom. It can be helpful. New Antivenom neutralises the venoms of all the 5 listed snake categories. That means it doesn’t matter what snake bit the patient.
Australian snakes will generally have 3 main effects. These are in differing degrees.
Bleeding – internally and bruising.
Muscles paralysed causing difficulty talking, moving & breathing.
In some snakes, severe muscle pain in the limb can occur. In some cases, days later the snake bite site can break down forming a nasty wound.
Allergy to snakes is extremely rare so that should not be of concern to anyone!
Snakes will generally only attack and bite if they feel threatened so if you see a snake give it room. Don’t poke it or aggravate it in any way. If you stay still and don’t move around chances are it will just go on it’s way.
If you need help identifying a snake feel free to reach out to Pat Lazzaro. He is an experienced and effective snake catcher that services the Northern suburbs of Brisbane. Based in Warner he has a real passion for all things snake related and works closely with a number of animal rescue organisations.