Snakes on the move - take care

With summer fast approaching, Southern NSW Local Health District is reminding people to be on the lookout for snakes and spiders while outdoors and to pack a First Aid kit, particularly when camping.

Deadly tiger snake.

Deadly tiger snake.

Southern NSW Local Health District Director Public Health Tracey Oakman said snake bites traditionally increase in spring ahead of a peak in late December and January and it is important to know what to do if this occurs.

In event of snakebite, swift administration of first aid is crucial and has been medically proven to be lifesaving.

“If you live in, or are holidaying in, a regional area and especially while camping, try to avoid being bitten in the first place by not interfering with snakes, and wear long pants and sturdy boots if walking in areas where snakes are present,” Mrs Oakman said.

“Also ensure you are prepared and know what to do. If a person is bitten by a snake or spider, keep them rested and the affected limb still, use an elasticised bandage on the affected area, starting at the bite site, then going down to the fingers or toes and then up to the limb to the hip or shoulder, and call an ambulance once first aid has been applied.

“Tourniquets should not be applied, and the bite site should not be cut or sucked. Move slowly away from the snake and don’t try to kill it.”

NSW hospitals are prepared for snake season, all local hospitals in the Health District have a comprehensive list of local species and treatment protocols.

Hospital emergency departments have antivenom which enables the emergency treatment of bites from black, brown and tiger snakes.

Symptoms from a venomous bite include nausea, vomiting, headache and in severe brown snake bites the patient may collapse and require resuscitation.

“Brown snake bites are probably the most common snake bite nationally and in NSW and there are also lots of red-bellied black snakes, which are treated with tiger snake antivenom,” Mrs Oakman said.

When it comes to spiders, people need to be aware of funnel web and redback spiders.

Like snake bites, funnel web spider bites should be left untouched except for the use of an elasticised bandage and the victim should remain still until medical help arrives.

Redback spiders are found in dark and dry places, including shoes left outside, helmets, under outdoor furniture and sometimes in play and garden equipment.

Redback spider bites aren’t life-threatening and it is recommended the area bitten is washed and advice sought from the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 131126.

For further information see the NSW Poisons Information Centre at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

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