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Snake and spider surge warning prompts reminder to brush up on first aid

With warmer weather creating a potential surge in venomous snake and spider activity, St John Ambulance NSW is reminding people about the importance of first aid.

NSW residents have been issued a warning of a potential surge in venomous snake and spider activity across the state this summer, due to the continued wet and humid weather conditions caused by La Niña.

“Australia has some of the most venomous snakes and spiders in the world,’ says Sarah Lance, CEO, St John Ambulance NSW.

“Time is critical when it comes to venomous bites, and they should be treated as a medical emergency. That is why we are asking people to brush up on the signs, symptoms and – most importantly – the treatment of snake and spider bites.”

More than half of deaths caused by snake bites in Australia occur in the home, and with continued wet weather conditions forcing snakes and spiders out of their natural habitat in search of drier areas, it’s expected that sightings within the home will increase.

The most dangerous snake posing a threat to Australians is the eastern brown snake, which causes a higher number of fatalities than any other snake in Australia.

“The most important thing in the event of a snake bite is to immediately call 000,” says St John Ambulance Training Manager and former Paramedic, Lara Bisley.

“Ultimately you want to stop the venom from travelling, which means as you’re waiting for the ambulance you should keep the patient still, lay them flat and wrap a bandage over the site of the bite. Follow this with a pressure bandage – starting from the fingers or toes and wrapping upwards as far as you can go.”

The funnel-web spider is also a cause for concern amongst NSW residents due to its lethal venom which can be fatal in just 15 minutes.

‘Funnel-web symptoms can include breathing difficulty, excess saliva, muscular twitching, numbness around the mouth, disorientation and confusion leading to unconsciousness,’ Mrs Bisley says.

Having access to a first aid kit that includes a guide and items including pressure bandages is recommended in all outdoor situations according to St John.

First aid steps, including funnel-web spiders and eastern brown snakes

  1. Follow DRSABCD (Danger, Response, Send for Help, Airway, Breathing, CPR, Defibrillation)
  2. Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance
  3. Lie the patient down and keep them still
  4. If on a limb, apply an elasticised roller bandage (10-15cm wide) over the bite site as soon as possible
  5. Apply a further elasticised roller bandage, starting just above the fingers or toes and moving upwards on the bitten limb as far as can be reached
    – Use clothing or other material if an elasticised roller bandage is not available
    – Apply the bandage as firmly as possible to the limb. You should be unable to easily slide a finger between the bandage and the skin.
  6. Immobilise the bandaged limb using splints
  7. Keep the patient lying down and completely still
  8. Write down the time of the bite and when the bandage was applied. If possible, mark the location of the bite site (if known) on the skin with a pen, or photograph the site. Do not wash venom off the skin or clothes because it may assist identification.
  9. Stay with the patient until medical aid arrives

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To find out more about first aid training or products, visit www.stjohnnsw.com.au.

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