Important snake bite info

Recently a friend of mine's young daughter was bitten by a brown snake on her big toe as she was walking through some grass on a rural property. She was taken to a local hospital then via an ambulance to a large regional hospital where she and her parents spent the next 2 days under observation.

After many tests it was deemed that while she had been bitten by a brown snake she had not been invenomated, which is that there was no venom associated with the bite so it was with great relief that her parents took her home and got on with their lives, albeit changed by the tumultuous possibility of the death of their daughter.

Later I spoke with another friend who shared some information about Australian snakes that I had not heard before. Unlike non-Australian snakes that inject venom via their fangs into the wound, Australian snakes' (with the exception of death adders and other adders,) fangs are solid and do not inject anything. They have a gland next to the fangs that releases venom, which is spat onto the wound that the fangs cause, and then usually the venom makes its way into the bloodstream.

Washing the wound

If the kind of snake is known, then one of the primary first aid treatments for snake bite is washing the wound as it is quite likely, especially if the bite has been a glancing one, that the sprayed venom has not entered the wound, or at least may take some time to do so. Washing the wound area may therefore prevent invenomation, and should be amongst the first things done when someone has been bitten.

First Aid courses and the ambulance service advise against washing the wound because they may need to ascertain what kind of snake it was that had bitten and often the only way to do that is test the venom.

Snake bites do occur in rural and semi-rural areas, and can become tragic for all concerned. Along with tourniquets, keeping calm and getting to a hospital as fast as possible, washing the wound is an important part of first aid IF the type of snake is known.

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