If you or a friend have been bitten by a snake, or even suspect a bite, act immediately. Don’t get brave or think you’ll tough it out like the construction worker who fell unconscious at Tyagarah Service Station while fueling his car, an hour after stepping on a Brown Snake. Get help immediately. If it’s a false alarm, good. If not, quick action may save a life.

Call emergency services. Get the professionals onto it.

Australia has most of the world’s deadliest snakes. Some have hollow fangs like syringes, some are grooved. Even a scratch from their needle-sharp fangs can be deadly. Snake venom kills their prey so they don’t have to fight it, and starts dissolving its insides for easy digestion. They’d rather not waste their venom on people they can’t eat. But if they think they really have to, they’ll bite people, mostly in self defense. The easiest way to not get bitten is not to mess with them. But accidents happen.

Venom mostly travels slowly through flesh, with the lymphatic system, rather than through veins. Standard treatment is bandaging along the whole limb firmly and keeping it immobile to stop the venom moving. Really immobile. That’s a splint for the leg or a sling to hold the arm across the chest. It makes a lot of sense to have done a First Aid course, and to have a First Aid kit handy. Fortunately in this country we have skilled professionals ready to assist. Call them. Dial 000.

Be Prepared

When George has found and removed a snake from someone’s house he usually has some advice to give. If encouraged he’ll take a pen and draw an x on someone’s wrist and say “OK, that’s a snake bite. What would you do?”. Their mission is to get hold of bandage and wrap their whole arm firmly, while holding their bitten hand across their chest, and call for help, within minutes, staying relaxed. It’s a dress rehersal for saving their own life.

Most people keep their bandages (if they have them) in a cupboard in the bathroom, tightly wrapped. Try getting that out one-handed. Then there’s the tape, also sealed away. By the time George has put them through their paces, they see the wisdom of having a roll of bandage open, and a bit of tape handy. Snakebite is unlikely, but realistically, in Byron Shire we live amongst one of the highest concentrations of some of the deadliest snakes in the world. Knowing what to do, and having the materials at hand, in the unlikely event of someone being bitten, is sensible preparation.

Don’t panic over snake bite. It’s painful and inconvenient, but surprisingly few people die when they do the right thing promptly and get professional attention.