What to do in a snakebite incident

The Royal Flying Doctor Service has issued new guidelines for snakebite victims based on a 10-year study of snakebites.

The study, the Australian Snakebite Project, prompted the RFDS South Eastern Sector which covers Orana, to reverse previous long-standing advice about the importance of identifying the colour and type of snake.

“Staying in the area after an attack can be dangerous and recent advances in medication mean we can now treat any snakebite with a generic polyvalent anti-venom, so identification is no longer necessary.”

Advice on how to respond to a snakebite can be found on the RFDS website by searching “snakebite”.

The RFDS advised snakebite victims on the most important dos and don’ts.

Do NOT wash the area of the bite or try to suck out the venom. It is extremely important to retain traces of venom for use with venom identification kits.

Do NOT incise or cut the bite, or apply a high tourniquet. Cutting or incising the bite won't help. High tourniquets are ineffective and can be fatal if released.

To stop the spread of venom - bandage firmly, splint and immobilise. All major medical associations recommend slowing the spread of venom by placing a folded pad over the bite area and then applying a firm bandage. It should not stop blood flow to the limb or congest the veins. Only remove the bandage in a medical facility, as the release of pressure will cause a rapid flow of venom through the bloodstream.

Do NOT allow the victim to walk or move their limbs.  Use a splint or sling to minimise all limb movement. Put the patient on a stretcher or bring transport to the patient.

Seek medical help immediately as the venom can cause severe damage to health or even death within a few hours.