First Aid For Snake And Spider Bites
Beaudesert has a healthy population of snakes and spiders. If bitten, swift action is critical. Please watch the video below for an overview of how to treat bites. Step-by-step instructions and further facts about snake and spider bites are below the videos.
The St John’s Ambulance video below provides a more comprehensive explanation of how to apply a pressure-immobilisation bandage.
Quick Steps for Snake Bite
- Do not wash the wound. Medical staff may need to swab the wound later to determine what sort of snake bit the patient.
- Keep the patient calm and still.
- Apply a pressure-immobilisation bandage (PIB) as shown in the St John’s Ambulance video above. If the bite is on the trunk then apply pressure over the site and immobilise the patient.
- Do not remove the PIB. Only medical staff should do that.
- Keep the patient as still as possible – any movement will encourage the spread of the venom.
- Call 000 or, if the patient seems well and you are close to the hospital, transport the patient to hospital immediately. If in doubt, dial 000.
- DO NOT apply a tourniquet; and
- DO NOT suck, cut, ice or wash the bite site.
Important Facts About Snake Bite
- No patient in Australia has ever died when the PIB has been applied early and correctly and medical help sought promptly.
- Snakes in Australia do not have a deep bite. Their venom spreads slowly through the lymphatic vessels in the skin rather than through the blood. If the venom travels far enough through the lymphatic system, it will reach the blood. At that point it becomes dangerous. The reason a pressure-immobilisation is so effective is that the PIB slows this spread through the lymphatic system. Keeping still is also important since any movement will speed up the flow through the lymphatic system.
- Venom only gets into the bloodstream in about 1 in 10 cases of snake bite in Australia. All snake bites should be treated as serious though until proven otherwise.
The treatment for spider bite depends on what type of spider has bitten the patient.
Redback Spider Bite
Redback spiders are the most common source of a venomous bite in Australia with 5000-10000 bites of humans each year. Redback spider bites are painful and can make you sick, but they are not considered to be life threatening.
Treatment of redback spider bite
- Keep the patient calm.
- Apply ice to the bite site.
- Pain at the bite site is likely to get severe within 10-50 minutes. Give simple pain relief such as Panadol.
- Do not apply a pressure-immobilisation bandage – it can increase the pain level and does not provide any benefits.
- If the patient develops headache or nausea or becomes significantly unwell then transport to hospital immediately. At the hospitals, doctors may decide to administer an antivenom depending on the severity of the symptoms.
Big Black Spider Bite
We have funnel-web spiders here in South East Queensland but they are a different species to their more dangerous cousins down in NSW. No death has ever been recorded from funnel-web spider bite in Queensland.
Mouse spiders are another big black spider. Bites from these spiders are rare but are potentially serious. Although a mouse spider bite will not necessarily be harmful, there is a case of a 19-month-old baby who had a serious reaction after being bitten by a mouse spider in Gatton. The baby survived after being given antivenom.
Treat all bites from big black spiders as serious. The treatment is the same as for snake bites (see above).
Other Spider Bites
Other spider bites are not toxic and do not require hospital treatment. Of particular note is that white-tailed spider bites are not toxic. Current scientific consensus is that these spiders do not cause ulceration or death of the surrounding skin. Therefore, they can be treated as for any non-toxic spider bite.
Treatment of non-toxic spider bites: RICE
Rest – keep the patient still and calm.I
Ice the bite site.C
Compression of the bite site may help if it is not too painful. Do not apply a pressure immobilisation bandage.E
Elevation – raise the bite site if possible.
- Murray, L., Daly, F., Little, M. & Cadogan, M. 2011, Toxicology Handbook, 2nd Edition, Elselvier Australia, Chatswood.
- Queensland Museum 2014, Mouse Spiders, Queensland Museum website, accessed 7 Feb 2014.
- Schutze, M. & Raven, R 2011, Funnel-Web Spiders Fact Sheet, Queensland Museum, accessed 7 Feb 2014.