Snake Bite - Emergency Action

Increasing urbanisation in recent years has seen human habitation encroaching more and more on wildlife habitat.  Consequently, our interaction with different species of wild creatures is increasing, and that includes snakes.  If you discover that you have a snake living in your garden, inhabiting your roof space, lurking underneath your decking, or curled up in your crawl space, always call a commercial pest control company to remove the offending reptile for you.

Unfortunately, snakes and people come into contact with each other by accident from time-to-time, and bites do happen.  Many species of snakes in Australia are harmless, but a few are highly venomous.  Here's what to do if you, or a member of your household, is bitten by a snake.

Types of snake bites

Non-venomous snakes give what's termed a 'dry bite'.  They have no venom to release; hence the bite is 'dry'.  Although this kind of snake bite is not dangerous, a bite could still be painful and may cause localised swelling and inflammation.

Venomous snakes stun their prey by injecting it with venom (poison) via their fangs.  Certain types of snake venom are highly toxic to humans and can even cause death if not treated promptly.  Symptoms of venomous snake bites include the following:

  • severe pain at the bite site
  • burning, stinging or tingling feelings of the skin
  • vomiting and nausea
  • dizziness and confusion
  • difficulty in breathing
  • swelling of the face or throat
  • paralysis

Because snake bites usually occur by accident, it's not always possible to see the culprit.  For example, a person gardening could push their hand into undergrowth where a snake is hiding and be bitten as a result.  Therefore, you should always treat any form of snake bite as a medical emergency.

Emergency action

Do not cut the bite site, suck out the venom, wash the site, or throw away clothing that may have venom on it.  The reason for this is that the emergency services use a 'venom detection kit' to establish whether anti-venom is necessary to treat the victim and also to identify the species of snake involved. Instead, follow these steps. 

  1. First of all, call the emergency services.  
  2. If the snake is in your home, remove the person who has been bitten to safety, and shut the snake inside the house.  
  3. Keep the victim as still as possible.  The more someone moves around, the further the snake venom will be circulated throughout the body where it could potentially attack the vital organs.
  4. Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage.  This is done by firmly bandaging the whole area of the body where the person has been bitten; this is usually either the arm or leg.  This action helps to keep the venom contained within the immediate area of the bite so that it doesn't move further around the body.  It's helpful to the emergency services if you can mark the site of the bite on top of the bandage with a pen.  
  5. If the victim has been bitten somewhere that's not easily bandaged, for example on the face, apply a pressure pad and hold it in position firmly until medical help arrives.

In conclusion

If you see a snake in your garden, in your shed, in your greenhouse, in your carport, or in your house itself, always call a commercial pest control company immediately to come and remove the snake.  If someone in your household is unlucky enough to be bitten by a snake, follow the emergency action plan outlined above.