First Response Blog


Australia is home to some of the world’s deadliest snakes and, as the weather warms, the chances of an encounter increases. Read on to find out where snakes like to hide, how to spot the signs of snake bite and what to do in the event of being bitten. 

Much like us, snakes come out of hibernation during the warmer months. Typically, they’ll be in search of food but are also often on the hunt for a mate. 

For this reason, snake encounters in residential and other urban areas are more common in the summer.

While not all snakes are venomous, it’s important to treat all bites as an emergency and seek medical attention as quickly as possible. 

Anyone living in Australia should know how to recognise the signs of a snake bite and how to respond – it might save your life one day, or the life of someone you love.  


  • Avoid areas where snakes are likely to reside such as long grass. It also pays to be mindful if camping or bush walking to avoid setting up camp in rocky patches or stepping over logs or reaching up for low hanging branches. These are some of their favourite places to hide. 
  • Wear long clothing, preferably loose denim or other hardwearing fabrics when visiting areas prone to snake activity.
  • Wear closed in shoes. Invest in long rubber or leather boots or thick hiking boots for gardening, camping and nature walks. The majority of reported snake bites are to the ankles. 
  • Avoid swimming in natural bodies of water after heavy rain as water snakes tend to be more active. 
  • Minimise the food sources for snakes by removing anything that may attract rodents or frogs and eliminate deposits of rubbish or other materials where snakes could hide.
  • Wear gloves and boots when moving stored materials and rubbish, as well as when gardening, as they will give some protection. 
  • The best protection against snake bites is increased awareness. Always be on the lookout. 

Many people report being unaware they had been bitten by a snake until sighting a snake nearby, noticing puncture wounds on their ankles or feet or feeling the onset of the effects of the venom. 

It’s important to know the signs of a snake bite to ensure action can be quickly taken to immobilise the patient and seek emergency medical assistance. 


  • More often snake bites appear as scratches on the skin and not necessarily as double puncture marks. They are often surrounded by redness, swelling, bruising, bleeding, or blistering 
  • Pain and tenderness at the site of the bite
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Rapid heart rate, weak pulse or low blood pressure
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Metallic, mint or rubber taste in the mouth
  • Sweating and increased salivation
  • Numbness or tingling in the face or limbs
  • Muscle twitching

* There may be further symptoms unique to the specific type of snake. 

In the event of a snake bite, it is crucial to treat the case as a medical emergency, even if there’s a chance the snake is not venomous. 


Step 1– Call 000 

Step 2– Keep the patient CALM and STILL: Breathing and movement increase the speed at which the venom is transported throughout the lymphatic system. Victims should remain rested and relaxed to improve their chances of recovery. 

Step 3– Apply a Pressure Immobilisation Bandage

It’s also helpful to record the time of the bite and to take a photo of the snake if you can do so at a safe distance. Definitely DO NOT pursue the snake or try to capture it. 

When approaching First Aid for Snake Bites, it helps to understand how venom works in the body and the reasons for recommended actions. 

Venom is a toxic substance that, when deposited into the tissue of the human body, becomes absorbed into the lymphatic system and then eventually into the circulatory system. It is at this point, when it reaches the heart, that a victim becomes truly envenomed.  

Because fluid in the lymphatic system moves slowly, using a technique called Pressure Immobilisation can very effectively slow and even stop the toxins from reaching the circulatory system where it would be pumped throughout the entire body. 


• Apply a broad pressure crepe bandage over the bite site as soon as possible. 

• Remove bulky clothing gently as rough movement may speed the flow of venom through the lymphatic system. If the clothing is too bulky, cut the clothing away

• Keep the affected limb still.

• The bandage should be firmly applied but not so tight as to restrict circulation. 

• Another bandage should then be wound around the limb starting from the distal (lower) end of the limb and then as far up the limb as possible. 

• Each turn of the bandage should cover two-thirds of the one before it. 

• Apply a splint to the leg or tie both legs together. 

• Ensure that the casualty remains very calm and still. This is VERY important.


Just as there are critical steps to take to keep a snake bite victim alive, there are some very important steps NOT TO TAKE to increase their chance of recovery. 

  • NEVER wash the venom off the skin. Any venom on the skin or bandage will help in identifying the snake. 
  • NEVER cut the bitten area. This will cause more damage and will help the venom to spread. 
  • NEVER try to suck the venom out of a wound. The venom may enter your system via any teeth problems or sores in your mouth. 
  • NEVER use a tourniquet. The Pressure Immobilisation Technique restricts flow of the venom not blood flow. The use of a tourniquet may cause serious damage to a limb by impeding blood flow. 
  • NEVER try to catch the snake. Do not become the next casualty. Major hospitals have venom detection kits to quickly determine the type of snake involved.
  • NEVER give the casualty an alcoholic drink or a cigarette. This will dilate blood vessels unnecessarily. 
  • NEVER put chemicals or ice on the wound. This could interfere with identifying the venom.