Premium Health’s Summer Health and Safety Series: Part 3
Christmas time has come and gone but the hot weather just keeps rolling in, and with it comes a set of seasonal health and safety risks that sees Australians from all walks of life reaching for the first aid kits at unprecedented rates.
To wrap up our Summer Health and Safety Series, Phillipa Wilson – Premium Health Managing Director and Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC) VIC Branch Secretary – takes us through the basic steps of surviving one of our nation’s deadliest encounters.
Heavy winter rainfall across most of Victoria and South Queensland prompted a surge in undergrowth this season, forming the ultimate prey-rich haven for what are arguably our nation’s least loved creatures.
Timid and naturally reclusive, the chances of seeing a snake in the wild are still quite low, however, if your bushwalking buddy is unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of one of the 1,000 recorded snake bites per year, there are some important steps you can take to minimise harm and potentially even save their life.
What does a snake bite look like?
Of all the test questions we ask our First Aid trainees, this question tends to stump them the most! Contrary to popular belief, an Australian snake bite won’t always be felt by the victim, and you won’t always see those classic paired fang marks. So it’s important you look for the deeper, less obvious physiological signs of a snake bite, and take them seriously.
According to the ARC Guideline 9.4.1, these signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. Australian snakes tend to leave a single mark or a scratch mark, their venom causing headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, blurred/double vision, swollen and tender glands in the groin or armpit of the bitten limb, limb weakness or paralysis, respiratory weakness – even respiratory arrest.
While different venoms cause slightly varying effects in humans, the most concerning is the onset of neurotoxic muscle paralysis, which causes breathing failure and ultimately, death. Other significant effects include bleeding due to coagulation failure, and muscle damage causing kidney failure.
What can I do?
It’s important to note that life-threatening effects of a snake bite may not present for hours. When massive envenomation occurs, especially in children, symptoms may appear within minutes.
The following steps are based on the ARC Guidelines:
- If possible, signal for professional medical assistance immediately.
- Keep the victim at rest and calm.
- If necessary, commence resuscitation according to the ARC and NZRC Basic Life Support Flowchart.
- Apply the Pressure Immobilisation Technique (Guideline 9.4.8).
While it feels instinctive to somehow try and extract the venom, never cut the bite area, apply an arterial tourniquet or wash/suck at the bite. And never attempt to catch or kill the snake!
Premium Health’s summer safety checklist
- Think ‘sun smart’: slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat – and slide on those shades!
- Keep hydrated, and try to increase your water intake from 8 to 10 glasses per day
- Keep a First Aid Kit (and this guide!) in your beach bag, or poolside
- NEVER leave infants, children, the elderly or pets in parked vehicles
- Look out for your elderly relatives and neighbours, and ensure they have access to plenty of fluids and adequate ventilation if not air conditioning
When the heatwaves hit, so do heat-related injuries and illnesses. So from December through to February, keep our Health and Safety Summer Series by your side. Better still, enrol in Premium Health’s Remote Area First Aid training, and feel confident that you can step up and make a difference wherever you are.
Have you ever seen a snake in the wild? Tell us about your experience in the comments, and subscribe to our LinkedIn page for more great tips and tricks on keeping safe year-round.
Premium Health’s ‘Remote Area First Aid’ training
When you’re hiking, biking, climbing or camping, an ambulance isn’t always around the corner! Premium Health’s ‘Provide First Aid in Remote Situations’ is a nationally accredited course that develops the knowledge and skills required to provide a remote first aid response and emergency life support to a casualty in remote or isolated environment.