27 September 2018

With the start of school holidays, NSW Health is reminding people to be careful of snakes and spiders while outdoors and to pack a First Aid kit, particularly when camping.

Toxicology expert Geoff Isbister from Newcastle’s Calvary Mater Hospital said snake bites traditionally increase in Spring ahead of a peak in late December and January and it is important to know what to do if this occurs.

“Particularly if holidaying in a regional area and especially while camping, try to avoid being bitten in the first place by not interfering with snakes, and wearing long pants and boots if walking in areas where snakes are present,” Dr Isbister said.

“Also ensure you are prepared and know what to do. If a person is bitten by a snake or spider, keep them rested and still, call an ambulance 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.”

NSW hospitals are prepared for snake season, with each Local Health District managing supplies of anti-venom, according to location, snake and spider populations and history of bites.

Dr Isbister says brown snake and tiger snake anti-venoms are the most commonly used treatments for snake bites in NSW.

“Symptoms from a venomous bite include nausea, vomiting, headache and in severe brown snake envenoming the patient may collapse and require cardiopulmonary resuscitation,” Dr Isbister said.

“Brown snake bites are probably the most common snake bite nationally and in NSW and there are also lots of red-bellied black snakes, which are treated with tiger snake antivenom.”

When it comes to spiders, people need to be aware of funnel web and redback spiders. Like snake bites, funnel web spider bites should be left untouched except for the use of an elasticised bandage and the victim should remain still until medical help arrives.

Redback spiders are found in dark and dry places, including shoes left outside, helmets, under outdoor furniture and sometimes in play and garden equipment.

Redback spider bites aren’t life-threatening and it is recommended the area bitten is washed and advice sought from the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 131126.

For further information see the NSW Poisons Information Centre at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead Frequently asked questions.