Tips and Tricks – Snakebite first aid on the trail for mountain bikers in Australia

While very very rare snakebite is a real possibility out on Australia’s trails whether on bike or on foot. The continents venomous snakes are internationally renowed and as a potentially very serious injury its worth knowing both how to prevent and how to deal with a bite.

Compression bandaging to treat snake bite
Compression bandaging to treat snake bite

I know its obvious but first and foremost avoid being bitten. Leave snakes alone and give them time and room to move away. Snakes know that you are much more risk to them than they are to you. Ralph once told me “in 99.9% of snake/human interactions snakes will definitely come off worst.”

For mountain bikers word has it that its the second rider to run over the snake that gets bitten. First rider just surprises the snake but its ready and angry for the next one.

The following first aid advice for snake bite came to us from qualified nurse and riding buddy Rebecca Lorch (tyresandsoles.com).

In summary:

  • keep the bite victim as still and calm as possible and imobilise the bitten limb
  • apply effective compression bandaging to the bitten limb (afterwards mark the bite site with a marker pen or similar if possible)
  • seek medical treatment as soon as possible while minimising all movement of the victim

Click on the image below for a ‘must read’ detailed advice sheet from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Pharmacology and Theraputics Australian Venom Research Unit (AVRU)  titled “First aid for snakes bites in Australia or New Guinea

AVRU snake bite advice pdf

Things you should never do after snake bite

✘ NEVER try to catch, chase or kill the snake, as this may lead to another bite.

✘ NEVER give alcohol, tea, stimulants, food or medications without medical advice.

✘ NEVER wash the wound, apply hot or cold packs, cut the wound, use ligatures or tourniquets, apply electric shocks, and do not suck the wound or use suction from any device.

✘ NEVERallow the patient to walk or run after a snake bite.

✘NEVER remove or loosen the pressure immobilisation bandages unless advised to do so by medical personnel.

✘ NEVER ignore the urgency of obtaining medical assistance in favour of reliance on traditional medicines or home remedies.

Things you should do after snake bite

✔ DRS ABCD should always be followed when a snake bite is suspected after a bite by either a land-dwelling snake or a sea snake in Australia or New Guinea. Be aware of the potential for sudden onset of dizziness and possible collapse and loss of consciousness. If the patient does become unconscious lay them on their left side in the recovery position and take steps to protect their airway and breathing. If a person stops breathing or is pulseless then DRS ABCD is vital and can be life-saving, and everyone should learn this approach as part of your overall first aid preparedness strategy. The St John Ambulance of Australia website (http://www.stjohnambulance.com.au) has specific resources about DRS ABCD and other first aid skills.

✔ RETREAT to a safe distance away from the snake, if necessary.

✔ CALM the patient, lay them down and keep them still. The recovery position is the best way to help protect their airway and breathing while you wait for ambulance or medical assistance. Protect them from the elements (rain, sunshine, cold, etc.).

✔ REMOVE rings, bracelets and any constrictive objects from the bitten limb, so that if swelling occurs these do not cause an increased

risk of serious harm due to restricted blood flow.

✔ REMAIN with the person who has been bitten at all times until help arrives. If you have no choice but to leave them in order to seek

help, return as quickly as possible. Avoiding situations where this may be necessary after any accident is better.

✔ MARK the site of the bite by using a pen to circle the area of the bandages over the bite site.

In the advice docuument it describes first aid using very firm compression bandaging to reduce “lymphatic transport”. I’ve read that even trained medical professionals underestimate the firmness of the bandaging required when using conventional dressings. In the advice document Setopress High Compression Bandages are specifically recommended as these relax very little with prolonged application while also have an extremely useful tension indicator helping to ensure a correct and useful application of the dressing.
They are available mail order from First Aid Distributions for about $15 www.firstaiddistributions.com.au/setopress-compression-bandage-10cm-x-3-5m
While the likelyhood of a snake bite is very low being out on the trails in the bush does mean the risk is real so we all carry a setopress compression bandage each on the trail plus we have one in the vehicle first aid kit.

 

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