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Snake and Spider Bite First Aid and Prevention

Almost all areas of the Hunter New England and Central Coast have seen the effects of climate change including recurring El Niña events. Prolonged periods of rain have fostered the growth of vegetation and the animals living within that habitat including an increase snakes and spiders.


  • Check shoes and gardening gloves before use, by shaking and inspecting. Pay particular attention to items that may not have been used for a while, such as gumboots or camping equipment.
  • Wear appropriate clothing (covered shoes and long pants) when in remote areas, bushland, long grass or gardening. Carry a first aid kit e.g. when hiking
  • Block off entry points into the house. On hot days snakes seek a cooler environment which may include human dwellings.
  • Familiarise yourself with first aid, namely and Pressure immobilisation techniques. For more information, please refer to: Snake Bite First Aid Tips | St John Vic

There are over 10 venomous species in Australia, and it is not always possible for a bitten person to identify the snake. Therefore, every snake bite should be treated seriously.

Most famous venomous snake species relevant in the Hunter New England and Central Coast context include the Brown Snake, Death Adder, Red Bellied Black Snake, Tiger Snake, and some species of Sea Snakes.


While most snakes don’t attack humans actively, snakes do bite to defend themselves when humans encroach into their habitat and come too close, or when snakes accidentally enter developed areas and encounter humans.

Signs of a snake bite are not always visible. In some cases, the patient may not have felt much, as some species have very thin fangs. Symptoms may not appear for an hour or more after the person has been bitten.

Depending on the type of snake, signs and symptoms can include some or all the following:

  • Pain at the bite site
  • Swelling, bruising or local bleeding
  • Bite marks, which can vary from obvious to almost invisible scratches
  • Swollen and tender glands in the groin or armpit of the bitten limb
  • Faintness, dizziness, double or blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Oozing of blood from the bite site or gums
  • Difficulty in speaking or swallowing, drooping eyelids
  • Limb weakness or paralysis
  • Difficulty in breathing

For more information visit: Fact sheets_snake bite.pdf (


  • Call an ambulance immediately
  • Treat any snake bite as an emergency, regardless of whether you think the snake was venomous or not.
    Call Triple Zero (000) and for an ambulance. Make sure they are directed to the accident site. If possible, stay with the patient and actively calm them down. Remember that the odds are in your favour: it is rare for people to die after being bitten by a snake, especially if they follow first aid steps and seek medical attention immediately.
  • You need to stay as still as possible, do not panic and do not move.
    Staying calm and still after a snake bite might save your life, as it will help slow down the spread of venom in your body. It is a myth that snake venom gets straight into your blood stream after a bite. Instead, it moves through your lymphatic system. Lymph is a fluid in your body that contains the white blood cells, and lymph moves when you move your limbs. If you can stay still and calm, you can prevent the venom in your lymph traveling further into your body.
  • If you are sure, you are not in danger of being bitten again, remain where you are, rather than walking to get help. If you are with other people, they should not move you at all, but start administering first aid where you are. Take long, deep breaths to help calm yourself down.
  • Do not wash, suck, cut or tourniquet the bite.
    Washing the snake bite site can wash off venom that the hospital staff may be able to use to identify the type of snake that bit you. If you have got a pad or even a piece of plastic like cling wrap, put it over the bite site to either soak up or protect the venom for later testing.
  • Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage and splint.
    Most snake bites occur on a limb, so legs, feet, arms, and hands are most affected. If you have been bitten on a limb, applying a pressure immobilisation bandage can stop the venom moving through your lymphatic system. Do not apply a tourniquet to the limb – this can be dangerous.

Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage by following the steps below:

  • Use an elasticised roller bandage (pressure bandage) that is 10-15cm wide
  • Roll bandage firmly over the bite site.
  • Apply a second elasticised roller bandage to immobilise the whole limb, starting just above the fingers or toes and moving upwards on the bitten limb as far as the bandage will reach. It should be applied very firmly, and you should not be able to easily slide a finger between the bandage and the skin. The idea is that it is tight enough to reduce lymphatic movement, but not constrict blood flow. (This is why you should leave the fingers or toes unbandaged—so you can monitor their colour and blood circulation).
    If you do not have a bandage handy, any stretchy material will do (torn up t-shirts, stockings or other fabric can be used as a bandage)
  • Once the bandage is on, mark the bite site on the bandage with a pen or other substance that will leave a mark – if you have got nothing else on you, putting a little mud or dirt on the bandage where the bite site lies underneath will work. Then, splint the limb to keep it still. Any straight object will do – a stick, rolled up newspaper or even firmly rolled up clothes or tarps can all work. Fix the splint in place by securing it to the limb with bandages or other material.
  • If you have been bitten on your head, neck, or torso, you do not need to put on a pressure immobilisation bandage.
  • Leave the snake alone.
    Do not try to identify, catch, injure, or kill the snake – you are likely to come off second best. At the hospital, staff have access to a range of tests that can help them determine the likely snake which you have been bitten by, enabling them to give you the most appropriate treatment.

Please refer to: Fact sheets_snake bite.pdf (, Top 5 things you need to do if you get bitten by a snake | Queensland Health


It can be difficult to know if a bite from a spider is dangerous or not. For medical purposes, there are 3 types of spiders (Spider bites - treatment, symptoms and first aid | healthdirect)

  • Big black spiders any large, black-looking spider, including funnel-web spiders and mouse spiders. After a bite of this type of spider you should seek urgent medical care.
  • Redback spiders are easy to identify as they have an orange red back. Their bites do not have rapidly developing or life-threatening effects, but many cause significant pain and other problems in the body.
  • All other spiders in Australia are harmless.

It is also important to be aware that bites from spiders can cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in some people.


General symptoms:

  • Sharp pain or burning at bite site
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Additional symptoms of a Funnel-Web/Mouse spider bite

  • Copious secretion of saliva and tears
  • Muscular twitching
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Numbness around mouth
  • Disorientation, confusion leading to unconsciousness
  • Fast pulse
  • Markedly increased blood pressure

Additional symptoms of a Red-back spider bite

  • Intense local pain which increases and spreads
  • Patchy sweating
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness or spasms

Possible other symptoms

  • Swelling
  • Blistering

Please also refer to: Fact sheets_spider bites.pdf (


Bites from a funnel-web or mouse spider can be very dangerous.
If someone gets bitten, help them to stay calm and follow these steps:

  • Bandage:
    Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage. Bandages with an indicator to find the right pressure are commercially available at pharmacies, but you can also reach a good result with basic bandaging techniques (Poisoning First Aid ( If possible, bandage the limb from the area of the bite to the hand or foot, then back up to the body. Note: Don’t apply a pressure immobilisation bandage for other spider bites such as Red Back bites.
  • Stay still.
    Ensure the person bitten does not move around as this will increase the spread and uptake of the venom. Keep the bitten limb low down. Immobilise the limb by splinting and do not move the person.
  • Call an ambulance and make sure they are directed to the accident site. If possible, stay with the patient and actively calm them down.

While seeking medical attention is necessary, it is important to note, that there have been no casualties from confirmed spider bites in Australia since 1979. An antivenom for Redback Spider venom was created in 1956, and one for Funnel Web venom in 1980 Spider facts - The Australian Museum. Also, many spider bites are so called dry bites, meaning the animal hasn’t injected any venom.

It is advisable that you only catch the spider if this doesn’t put you in the danger of being bitten. This would help medical professionals identify the species and assess the associated risk.

Anaphylactic shock

After being bitten by a spider or snake, some people occasionally develop a severe allergic reaction with heavy and prompt onset of symptoms of anaphylactic shock such as:

  • Difficulties breathing due to swelling of the tongue, tightness in the throat, wheezing or cough
  • Difficulty talking and/or a hoarse voice
  • Dizziness or collapse
  • Being pale and floppy (young children)
  • Abdominal pain or vomiting

If someone is experiencing anaphylaxis, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

First aid for other spider bites

For all other spider bites, including bites from redback spiders, apply a cold compress or ice pack (wrapped in a clean cloth), directly over the bite site for 15 minutes to help relieve the pain and reapply as needed. Seek medical assistance if further symptoms or signs of infection develop.

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