Snake bite first aid

Snake Bite First Aid

Phone Emergency Services Australia ~ 000 ~ Triple Zero

– USA 911 –

1. ASSESS FOR ANY DANGER! Assure the patient they will be OK, if necessary help the patient into immediate shade/cool, carry if possible but keep patient movement to an absolute minimum, immediate patient immobilisation is critical, help them lay down and remain absolutely still. If arm keep in front of torso; leg straight out – fingers/toes motionless.

If immediately possible ask people to assist: to call 000; make patient comfortable; assist in first-aid; read instructions etc.

WARNING!! Remain at the greatest distance from any snake (10m+).

2. Use 15cm x 2.3 metre ‘Heavy’ Crepe Elastic bandage OR similar CREPE BANDAGE – 10cm HEAVY next best option – to perform PRESSURE IMMOBILISATION BANDAGING – use TWO (2) for one adult or ONE for a child.

Snake bite first aid

IF NO Crepe Bandage available use any flexible material eg T-shirt cut into strips, panty-hose etc, or as a minimum use strips of cloth.

Snake bite first aid

3. DO NOT WASH the bite area – leave venom for snake type identification.

4. CAN Bandage over light/medium clothing. Remove shoe if leg bite. Only if necessary remove heavy or excessive clothing from bitten limb, ensure the patient DOES NOT MOVE. Only cut-off clothing if it can be done quickly.

5. During treatment MARK bite site with marker/pen or place object / coin etc on skin or bandage so that the bite location remains identifiable.

6. IF the BITE is NOT on the ARM or LEG – APPLY FIRM PRESSURE to the bite area with pads, folded small towel etc, then firmly wrap to body.

Do not restrict blood-flow or breathing.

7. IF UPPER LIMB BITE – ONLY IF can be done quickly – wrap an initial bandage around the bite site twice as treating for a normal wound.

– Not necessary for patient survival and usually only performed by the experienced and well prepared.

* To TIE-OFF: loop around limb pulling end through under loop and pull firm (basic granny knot).


ASK the patient during treatment if the bandaging gets too tight, it is critical that blood flow continues. The patient should remain comfortable with the pressure bandage.

8. Keeping LIMB still APPLY the first BANDAGE OVER fingers or toes first, leaving tips exposed for inspection and with some pressure (enough to just insert two fingers under – as for a sprain) wrap around twice then wrap moving up the entire limb, overlapping at least half bandage width – Tie-Off. With the SECOND BANDAGE wrap around the uppermost limb twice to secure then wrap back down the limb – ENSURE both bandages are used.

OR for a CHILD use HALF the bandage up the limb and remaining half of the bandage back down the limb.

STOP wrapping bandage short of finger/toe extremities leaving exposed for inspection. MONITOR continually observing finger/toe ends, turning purple indicates not enough blood flow, quickly un-wrap then re-wrap keeping pressure firm. If possible secure end of bandage with safety pin, tape, bandage clasps etc.

Snake bite first aid

9. IMMOBILISE the patient, DO NOT ALLOW TO MOVE, keep movement to an absolute minimum, – immobilise an arm with a sling, splint and/or wrapping to patient’s front, not too tight, with bandages, cloth strips, table cloth etc, – immobilise a leg using a splint (stick etc), wrap/bind to the other leg.

10. ICE PACK above bite site, not below. Keep patient COOL, in shade/air conditioning etc.

11. PREPARE to potentially administer additional first-aid as some snake bite patients can go into shock or have anaphylactic reactions.

Learn CPR – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

12. RECORD INFORMATION – date/time, locality, bite location, patient condition, snake type, size, colour, a photo/video only if safe. Provide details to medical authorities.

13. IF an AMBULANCE can not be obtained then PREPARE to DRIVE the patient to medical help, however keep the patient still and regularly check the integrity of the compression bandage. Extra people to assist and a stretcher are ideal. Any movement of the patient WILL cause the injected venom to move within the lymphatic system, even if the movement is involuntarily such as whilst travelling in a vehicle.

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  • 3 x  10cm wide compression bandages.
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Factors to Remember

  • DO NOT start at the upper limb wrapping down to fingers/toes then back up, this will cause permanent damage to blood vessel valves.
  • IF the bandaging becomes too loose immediately start again, or IF only just loose then leave on and apply additional bandaging if possible.
  • The exact treatment will have to be adjusted to maximise efficiency with each particular circumstance. No two situations will rarely be identical, however always remain calm and assess and apply the most effective strategy.
  • First Aid – DRABC: Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing, CPR.
  • CPR = 30 compressions + 2 breaths, performed twice per minute.
  • NEVER use a ‘tourniquet’ type blood flow restriction technique.
  • The Bandaging will absorb some of the venom, which can be cut off as a small section for testing, without having to remove the bandage.
  • DO NOT attempt to catch or kill the snake! Identification can be made from venom left on the skin or any clothing with a Venom Detection Kit.
  • Young venomous snakes, less than one year old, WILL inject venom.
  • The bandage is usually removed by medical services once the anti-venom is administered ~ or if not leave on for a MINIMUM of 72 HOURS.
  • DO NOT give food or alcohol – can cause internal bleeding.
  • ALLOW sips of water ONLY.
  • Keep reassuring the patient they will be ok and that help is arriving soon.
  • Applying these strategies will significantly increase the patients chance of survival.
  • Anti-vannine is for the treatment of highly venomous snake bites.
  • Juvenile venomous snakes are more likely to kill you as young snakes are far more likely to actually inject often a dangerous volumes of venom, possibly due to being more fearful and unaware, compared to older / larger snakes that are more likely to deliver a ‘dry-bite’, striking without injecting venom, as more of an action to deliver a warning.
  • The overall underlying message is to always be prepared when in the natural environment, always focus on the intention of potenial hazards, and when possible regularly practice first aid training!

Condensed Version


~ Phone 000 ~

1. Use 2.4 metre Heavy Crepe Elastic bandage, use two (2) for an adult.

2. MARK bite site with pen or place object / coin etc on skin or bandage.

3. Apply BANDAGE at site of bite first, with some pressure (enough to insert two fingers under) wrap around moving up the limb then back down the limb, stopping short of finger / toe extremities exposing for inspection.

4. ICE pack above bite site, not below. Keep patient temperature cool.

5. LEAVE ON for an absolute MINIMUM of 72 HOURS – possibly up to a week without medical attention.

6.Keep Patient Calm / reassured.

The Bandage will absorb some of the venom, which can be cut off as a small section, without having to remove the bandage.

And as an Interesting Side Note

Indigenous Australian’s, whilst certianly very weary of Australian venomous snakes to say the least, would never travel in the bush alone, always with at least one other, and traditionally would if bitten by a venomous snake, fall to the ground immediately, be dragged to shade, have a shallow short trench dug, be placed inside and buried in the sand as deep and yet relatively horizontal as possible, with only the face exposed to be able to breath. Basically this would look like burying someone in a shallow grave.

This procedure quite effectively was the original strategy of compression bandaging, keeping the patient immobile and immobilising the venom allowing the body to gradually breakdown the toxic compounds of the venom to then naturally be removed by the body. This apparently may take up to a week. The patient was kept cool, and provided regular small amounts of water. Traditionally the victom may have been provided certain indigenous foods to assist in the healing process but this knowledge is certainly out of the context of this particular first aid advice.

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