While most are itching for summer to begin and the weather to warm up, Australians are being urged to keep their eyes peeled as some of the country’s most dangerous creatures begin to reappear.
Each year snakes and spiders make their way out of hiding, slithering and creeping around homes, with some even found hiding under toilet seats or in beds. About 3,000 Australians are bitten by snakes each year and a further 2,000 are bitten by redback spiders alone.
Australia is home to 21 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world, with the brown snake, red-bellied black snake and tiger snake, often sighted across the country. They are the focus of many people’s nightmares, and rightly so, as their bites can cause severe reactions and even death.
It may be a couple of months until summer really begins, but with sightings already made across the country health officials are urging people to be prepared for the worst while outdoors, and particularly when camping.
In a statement released by NSW Health, Newcastle’s Calvary Mater Hospital toxicology expert Geoff Isbister said in the first instance it’s best to avoid interfering with snakes to minimise chances of being bitten and to cover up by wearing long pants and boots if walking in areas where snakes could be present.
If the unfortunate occurs and someone is bitten, Isbister says they should be kept still while an ambulance is called and use an elasticised bandage on the affected area.
“Tourniquets should not be applied, and the bite site should not be cut or sucked. Move slowly away from the snake and don’t try and kill it [the snake],” Isbister said.
Experts advise against applying a tourniquet to the bite as it can be fatal once released and warn not to rinse the bite with water as medical staff need the trace venom to identify the type of snake.
Thankfully hospitals across Australia are prepared for the worst, keeping anti-venom at hand to treat bites from snakes and spiders in that region.
However, a Isbister said it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of a bite to ensure treatment is given as soon as possible.
“Symptoms from a venomous bite include nausea, vomiting, headache and in severe brown snake envenoming the patient may collapse and require cardiopulmonary resuscitation,” he explained.
When it comes to spiders, people need to be aware of funnel web and redback spiders, using the same techniques if someone is bitten.
Redback spider bites, while they aren’t life threatening, should be washed first with advice sought from poisons information centres across the country.
These nasty creatures in particular are found in dark and dry places, including shoes left outside, helmets, under outdoor furniture and sometimes in play and garden equipment.
To make things that little bit more frightening for Aussies, scientists from the University of Queensland only recently discovered a new species of bandy-bandy snake at the Weipa on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula. Researchers discovered the new species when they were researching sea snakes in the area.