Surprising snake bite statistic in Southern Downs hospitals
ENVENOMATION is found in less than 11 per cent of hospitalised snake bites on the Southern Downs, but experts are warning to treat every bite as a worst-case scenario.
A number of snake bites in the past week has prompted advice on how to avoid a run in with potentially-dangerous animals.
Over the last seven days, at Warwick doctors have treated at least two snake bites, one patient being a teenage girl who was rushed to Warwick hospital on Monday.
Granite Belt snake catcher Drew Godfrey said the most common venomous snake in the Southern Downs was also the world's second-most deadly.
But he said only around 20 per cent of bites resulted in envenomation.
"A lot of the time when they are just defending themselves they will bite but won't envenomate,” Mr Godfrey said.
"But you should always apply emergency first aid and treat it as the worst case scenario, no matter what the bite.”
Figures obtained from the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service reveal envenomation is found in about 10.8 per cent of snake bites treated at the Warwick and Stanthorpe hospitals since 2015.
Presentations becoming more common
In Warwick, snake bite presentations rose from 12 in 2015 to 18 last year.
But cases of envenomation were much lower, occurring twice in 2015 and only once last year.
Senior medical officer Chris Hegerty said anyone who had been bitten, or suspected they had been bitten, should seek emergency medical help immediately.
"The snake bite victim should be kept as immobile as possible to not pump the venom to the central circulatory system,” Dr Hegerty said.
"This means they should be carried to a close-by vehicle for transport if possible.
"Do not wash the bite wound area as venom on the skin can be used to identify the snake to determine what sort of antivenin should be administered.
"A crepe bandage or other kind of material should be wrapped right around the affected limb if possible, like how you would bandage a sprained ankle.”
Mr Godfrey said pressure bandages designed specifically for treating snake bites were a valuable item in any first aid kit.
Mitigate risk of snake bites
According to Mr Godfrey, there were a number of steps people could take to decrease the risk of snakes on the property.
These included cleaning up debris like piles of sticks or sheet metal that snakes could hide under.
"Water features are likely to attract things like red bellies because they come searching for frogs to eat the frogs and red bellies even like to drink and have a swim,” Mr Godfrey said.
Chicken coops were also a target for snakes according to Mr Godfrey, who prey off rodents that hang around the coop.
He also advised wearing good, enclosed footwear (like boots) and jeans around the property, which venomous snakes were unlikely to penetrate.
Not all tricks work
While things like good, colourbond fences without gaps or holes and snake mesh could keep snakes out of a property, not all solutions were genuine, Mr Godfrey said.
He warned against spending money on snake repellent.
"If anything they can attract snakes because they let off a little vibration which a snake can mistake for a little mouse,” he said.
"They just don't work.”
If you or someone you know suspects they have been bitten by a snake, call 000 for urgent medical help.
Treat every bite as a worst-case scenario.
Mr Godfrey is a professional snake catcher and reptile handler in the Southern Downs. You can contact him on 0458 491 123.