The Australian Snakebite Project is the most comprehensive to have been carried out, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service rethinks snakebite treatment

SURPRISING results in a 10-year project have prompted the Royal Flying Doctor Service to reverse previous longstanding advice on snake bites.

RFDS south eastern section said it had challenged many long-held perceptions about where bites occurred and how to treat them.

It now says there is no need to identify the type of snake – and that to try to do this could be needlessly dangerous.

The Australian Snakebite Project is the most comprehensive ever carried out.

It involved more than 1500 patients and collated snakebite data from 2005-2015. 

“As venomous snakes are found in every state and territory, we urge everyone – not just those in the warmer outback locations – to be vigilant,” senior flight nurse Tracey King said.

She said there were about 3000 reported snakebites a year in Australia, 500 hospital admissions and an average of two deaths.

Where the snake was identified, the brown was the most common biter (41 per cent), then the tiger (17pc) and red-bellied black (16pc). 

There-quarters of the people bitten are males aged in their 30s, and most bites occur near houses, not in the bush. Half of all bites were while people were out walking; gardening or trying to catch a snake were the other most common scenarios.

Ms King said it was no longer necessary to be able to identify the type of snake.

“Staying in the area after an attack can be dangerous. Recent advances in medication mean we can now treat any snakebite with a generic polyvalent anti-venom.”

The advice includes:

Place a folded pad over the bite area, then apply a firm bandage (it should not stop blood flow). Only medical personnel should remove it. Don’t allow the victim to walk. Use a splint or sling to minimise limb movement. Put the patient on a stretcher or bring transport to them. Seek medical help immediately.


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