How to treat a snakebite?
Fangs of Australian snakes are rather short compared to many other snakes from around the world.
A short fang will deliver the venom just under the skin, so unless you receive a bite into a vein then that is where the venom can be held.
To hold the venom in place you can use a pressure bandage,which you can purchase, from any chemist shop.
Most people don’t carry around a pressure bandage with them when they get bitten.
Pressure bandages are about as broad as your fist so if you don’t have one you can tear up a t-shirt or use some other material such as cotton underpants or socks would do fine,tighten with a stick or pen etc.
What you are to do next is hold the venom in place till you get to hospital.
For example if you are bitten on the leg, you can start to wrap around and over the bite area firmly a few times and then from the bite site you keep wrapping the bandage moving up the limb from the bite. You may have to tear up a few pieces of clothing to give you enough bandages. Of course, a bite on the hand would need less bandage material than that for a leg.
You must keep the limb still, as the pressure bandage will only work if the limb is kept still. Also make sure you keep the whole body still.
If you are wearing a finger ring and you have been bitten on the hand, get the finger ring off. If you don’t, do that then once the swelling starts then you may not get it off.
Call an ambulance or get someone to drive you to hospital. If someone can warn the hospital, that you are on the way, all the better.
In Australia with the exception of Tasmania it is not advisable to wash the bite area. In Tasmania and the Islands of Bass Strait there is only one type of antivenom that is needed and that is Tiger Snake Antivenom.
For Copperhead bites you only need Tiger antivenom. There is no such thing as Copperhead antivenom.
Tiger snake bite
Once on the mainland of Australia any one of the five antivenoms could be used. Australia is the only country in the world where we have a venom test to identify which venom is the culprit. It only takes a few minutes to identify which group your bite belongs to and if antivenom is needed they will know which one to use.
Remember you may not need antivenom. Most bites don’t require antivenom. However, you won’t know that in advance so it is wise to treat every bite as serious. If you have washed off the venom from the snakebite area, a blood or urine test could suffice. If the snake grouping still cannot be identified then there is what you might call Australian Universal Antivenom. This antivenom is correctly called the Polyvalent Antivenom; and it does cover all the dangerously venomous snakes of Australia.
It is not however wise, to rely on the polyvalent, it should only be used in emergencies; it is very expensive and it is a massive dose when compared to the specific antivenoms. Remember that specific antivenom is specific so, it is always better to use that wherever possible.
Just treat every bite sensibly and seriously and your chances of survival are excellent; and don’t ever think that you are going to become immune to snakebite. Technically you can become immune but it is not as simple as that.
In Australia we have some of the best antivenoms in the world and so by learning to use a pressure bandage and keeping still you have one of the best chances of surviving a deadly snake bite anywhere on the planet. There can always be a tragedy and tragedies should be very rare, so let’s keep it that way.
Nobody should die from snakebite in Australia.