16.09.2019 09:10 Age: 135 days

How to save lives this snake season

Snake season has arrived and according to the WA Country Health Service’s Dr Andrew Jamieson, the organisation is more prepared than ever.

“Potentially deadly snakebites are a reality for those of us who live and work in rural and regional Western Australia,” Dr Jamieson said.

“That’s why we’ve been flat out ensuring our clinicians are up-to-date in the very latest in snakebite management.

“In fact, more than 180 doctors and nurses employed across the Kimberley, Pilbara, Midwest, Goldfields, Wheatbelt, South West and Great Southern have just completed their annual training,” he added.

Dr Jamieson said while on-the-ground staff were trained to deal with potentially deadly bites, there were important steps members of the public could take if a snake bite is known or suspected.

“There’s no beating around the bush – if you’re across the appropriate first aid you could potentially save your own life or that of a loved one,” he said.

Dr Jamieson said while the signs and symptoms of a snakebite were not always visible, bites could often resemble a scratch.

“If you think you may have been bitten, all suspected snake bites must be treated as potentially life threatening and you should call 000 immediately,” he said.

While seeking emergency assistance, members of the public should:

  • Lie the patient down and ask them to keep still
  • If on a limb, firmly apply an elasticised roller bandage over the bite site and up and down the limb as soon as possible
  • Use clothing or other material if an elasticised roller bandage is not available
  • Immobilise the bandaged limb using splints
  • Keep the patient lying down
  • Write down the time of the bite and when the bandage was applied
  • If possible, mark the location of the bite site
  • Stay with the patient until medical assistance arrives.

According to Dr Jamieson, once a patient attends a medical facility, blood tests will be required with antivenom provided if they are confirmed to be envenomed.

“That may mean that some people, depending on their location, will need to be transferred to a tertiary hospital for future treatment,” he said.

“But our message is clear: suitable first aid and prompt medical referral could mean the difference between life and death,” he added.

Dr Jamieson said those travelling to rural and remote WA should also carry a pressure bandage with immobilisation (PBI) as a precautionary measure and avoid areas with long grass or where they can’t see the ground.

“If you do see a snake, stand still or slowly retreat and leave it be,” he said.