PF Olsen Aus logo.jpg

Snake Bite First Aid

Forestry workers in Australia frequently encounter snakes. Unlike other parts of the world, the majority of snakes in Australia are venomous.
According to the Victorian Department of Health, about 600 people are bitten by snakes each year in Australia. About half of these need treatment with anti-venom. Death from snake bite is rare in Australia.
Where deaths have occurred, the most common snakes are the brown snake, death adder, tiger snake, and the coastal taipan .

  • Brown snakes and the death adder are found across Australia except Tasmania or Kangaroo Island.
  • Tiger snakes are found in southern temperate areas including Tasmania and Kangaroo Island.
  • Coastal taipans are found in northern and eastern Australia.
Different colour forms, subspecies or species of these snakes are present in different parts of Australia.
To avoid snake bites:
  • Wear boots and long trousers when in the forest.
  • Look at where you are placing your feet, walk more slowly in areas that could provide cover for snakes.
  • Use a torch if walking around at night.
  • Do not reach under logs, rocks, parked vehicles or buildings without first having a look for snakes.
  • If a snake is seen, don’t approach it or try to kill it.
A suspected snake bite should always receive immediate first aid with prompt follow up professional medical care.
Key features of a snake bite:
  • The bite may be painless.
  • There can be paired fang marks but the bite may appear as just a scratch.
  • Symptoms can include: headache, impaired vision, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, drowsiness, difficulty speaking or swallowing, confusion, loss of consciousness.
Identification of the snake allows more targeted medical treatment. Identification can be made from venom present on the skin or clothing of the patient. Do not wash, cut or suck the bite site or discard the clothing. Do not attempt to capture or kill the snake.
The Australian Resuscitation Council recommends the pressure immobilisation technique (PIT) as immediate first aid for snake bite. Where a patient is unconscious, the D.R.S.A.B.C.D actions take precedence, however it is important that pressure bandages and immobilisation are applied as soon as possible. Staff with first aid training should have received instruction in snake bite treatment.
Source: St John Ambulance
A poster detailing first aid for snake bite is available from St John Ambulance Australia via the following link:

The key steps in snake bite first aid are:
  • Apply a broad pressure bandage over the bite site as soon as possible
  • Bandage upwards from the lower portion of the bitten limb over the bite site to as high as possible up the limb. This should be done with a separate bandage if possible. The bandage can be applied over clothing and should be applied at about the same pressure as would be used for a sprained ankle.
  • Immobilise the limb by using a splint
  • Keep the patient still, lie the patient down to prevent walking or moving around
  • Bring the transport to the patient and take the patient by ambulance to the nearest hospital emergency department.