Summer is here again and it’s time to make the most of the outdoors. But the warmer temperatures don’t just bring out the holidaymakers: it’s also prime weather for Australia’s most venomous creatures. With higher temperatures making some creatures more active, Australians are facing an increased risk of bites and stings (1/2). And not just in the bush: inner regional areas and major cities are also hotspots for chance encounters (3).
So, would you know what to do if you were bitten by a redback spider? Or a common death adder? Or stung by a box jellyfish? Immediately contacting emergency services is crucial
and knowing what first aid to apply to venomous bites and stings could potentially save a life.
Now there is a free app, Australian Bites & Stings, that provides a handy first aid guide to the venomous creatures of Australia.
The app explains how to proceed in case of a bite or sting – and also how not to proceed. There is information specific to an extensive list of venomous creatures in Australia, from the blue-ringed octopus to the cute-but-dangerous platypus. There are also useful resources such as a video guide to resuscitation.
Here’s some info on five venomous creatures in Australia, including first aid to apply while you’re waiting for the ambulance and medical assistance. (Note: no advice is intended as a substitute for summoning emergency help. Always call 000.) Incidences involving contact with venomous creatures were reported to have caused 41,521 hospitalisations in Australia from 2001-2013 (3).
You can download the app for free at the App Store, Google Play or from this website.
Box jellyfish are found in northern Australian tropical waters, from Gladstone in Queensland to Broome in WA. Symptoms include intense pain, tentacle contact marks, breathing difficulties and cardiac arrest in severe cases. Basic first aid involves calling 000, washing the sting area with vinegar, removing adherent tentacles with tweezers, and applying a cold pack for pain relief.
Brown snakes are found throughout Australia and are the commonest cause of snake bites and snake bite deaths. Signs and symptoms of a bite may include headache, nausea,
abdominal pain, muscle/limb weakness or paralysis, blurred vision and loss of
consciousness. If bitten call 000 and apply the pressure immobilisation technique. Do not use a tourniquet, do not let the person walk, do not cut, suck or wash the bite site, and do not try to catch or kill the snake.
Funnel-web spiders are found in Sydney, NSW, Southeast Queensland and may also be
found in other eastern and southeastern areas of Australia, including Victoria and
Tasmania. The bite from a funnel web over 2cm in size may be life threatening, particularly
in children. Bites are generally very painful and may cause tingling around the mouth,
salivation, abdominal pain, sweating, breathing difficulty and confusion leading to
unconsciousness. If bitten call 000, apply the pressure immobilisation technique and do not
let the person walk.
Common Death Adders are found in Northern Territory, Queensland, New South Wales,
Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. It has a broad, flattened, triangular head and a thick body and narrow tail. If bitten call 000 and apply the pressure immobilisation technique. Do not use a tourniquet, do not let the person walk, do not cut, suck or wash the bite site, and do not try to catch or kill the snake.
Redbacks are found throughout Australia and every year approximately 2,000 people are
bitten (4). The red stripe of a redback spider may appear as an orange or pale strip. The bite
may be painless, but symptoms can include: hot, red swollen bite site, intense and spreading local pain, sweating, nausea, abdominal or chest pain, and swollen and tender glands. If bitten, call 000 (particularly important if the person bitten is a young child, collapse occurs or pain is severe), apply an ice compress and keep the person under observation. Do not apply the pressure immobilisation technique.
- 1. Christopher I Johnston, Nicole M Ryan, Colin B Page, Nicholas A Buckley, Simon GA Brown, Margaret A O’Leary, Geoffrey K Isbister, The Australian Snakebite Project, 2005e2015 (ASP-20), Available at:
https://www.mja.com.au/system/files/issues/207_03/10.5694mja17.00094.pdf. Accessed in November 2018.
- 2. Australia Wide First Aid, Australian Spider Identification and Spider Bite Treatment, 2014, Available at:
https://www.australiawidefirstaid.com.au/australian-spider-bite-identification-treatment/. Accessed in November 2018.
- 3. Ronelle E Welton, David J Williams, Danny Liew. Injury Trends from Envenoming in Australia, 2000-2013. Internal Medicine Journal, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/imj.13297. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/imj.13297. Accessed in November 2018.
- 4. Australian Museum, Spider Facts, Available at: https://australianmuseum.net.au/spider-facts. Accessed in November 2018.