Revealed: The most common mistakes people make after being bitten by a snake

Isabella Robinson

Experts have revealed some common mistakes people make after they have been bitten by a snake.

There are many dangerous myths about treating bites, according to the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern (RFDS SE), and the group has updated its advice following a comprehensive study.

“The publication of this study is very timely as the warm, dry winter and sudden rise in temperatures has brought snakes out early this year,” said Tracey King, Senior Flight Nurse at RFDS SE.

The Snake Hunter Mark Pelley said if you do not treat a snake bite properly you can die in as little as 30 minutes. Source: Supplied

Experts advise snake bite sufferers should not wash the bite area or attempt to suck the venom out.

RFDS SE said in a release: "It is extremely important to retain traces of venom for use with venom identification kits."

Secondly, people who have been bitten should not apply a high tourniquet, or incise or cut the bite.

"Cutting or incising the bite won't help. High tourniquets are ineffective and can be fatal if released."

Mark "Snake Hunter" Pelley explained to 7News Online: "Once the high tourniquet is released there is nothing preventing the venom from entering the circulatory system and the onset of effects will be rapid."

A death adder. Source: Supplied by Mark

The RFDS SE has also said snakebite victims should not walk or move their limbs.

It recommends: "Use a splint or sling to minimise all limb movement. Put the patient on a stretcher or bring transportation to the patient. "

The updated advice follows a comprehensive study called The Australian Snakebite Project, which was published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Due to the new study the RFDS SE said it has reversed previous long-standing advice about the importance of identifying the type of snake and its colour.

“Staying in the area after an attack can be dangerous and recent advances in medication mean we can now treat any snakebite with a generic polyvalent anti-venom, so identification is no longer necessary,” Ms King said.

Red-bellied black snake. Source: Supplied by Mark

In the RFDS list of most important dos and don'ts it says "do" seek medical help immediately.

The service also says bandage firmly, splint and immobilise to stop the spread of venom.

"All the major medical associations recommend slowing the spread of venom by placing a folded pad over the bite area and then applying a firm bandage. It should not stop blood flow to the limb or congest the veins."

"Only remove the bandage in a medical facility, as the release of pressure will cause a rapid flow of venom through the bloodstream. "

The RFDS SE said there are many dangerous myths surrounding the treatment of bites. Source: Royal Flying Doctor Service

Mark "Snake Hunter" Pelley has also stressed the importance of treating a snakebite correctly.

He said: "If you do not treat a snakebite properly you can die in as little as 30 minutes."

"By being up to date with the correct medical advice we can save people's lives."

Mr Pelley also stressed the importance of correct treatment of a bite. Source: Supplied

Mr Pelley added: "If you apply the broad pressure bandage technique you can restrict the flow of venom going through your system and you can survive for several hours until you receive medical treatment."

According to the study most attacks occur near houses rather than in the bush and 50 per cent of bites happen while people are out walking.

People are also commonly bitten while trying to catch snakes or gardening.

Ms King said, “Surprisingly, they’re often painless and may go unnoticed as tissue damage is mostly light – lacerations, scratches or light bruising along with some bleeding or swelling.

"As over 90% of snakebites we found to occur on the upper and lower limbs, these are the places to check first.”

Mark Pelley The Snake Hunter said it is also important to remember a snake won't go out of its way to bite you.

"It will bite you if it perceives a threat from you or is hurt, so by leaving snakes alone you significantly reduce your change of being bitten. "