NSW Medical Bulletin

Australia's Advance Medical Technology

Snakebite! Outback Medical Emergencies & The Flying Doctor


There are around 3,000 snakebite in Australia each year, with recent figures showing around 550 hospitalizations and an average of two deaths per annum. While 57% of snakebites happen in regional and rural areas, not in cities. The majority happen near homes, buildings, or traveling in the desert. Getting bitten in these remote and rural areas is a serious matter, particularly due to the time and distance you may be from the nearest anti-venom.

Here are some basic precautions medical emergencies, you can take to reduce your chances of being snakebites to increase your chances of survival if you are bitten.

Avoid Snakebite

Bites mainly occur when the snake is disturbed or otherwise provoked. The safest way of preventing being snakebite is by avoiding snakes altogether. 

  1. Be careful where you put your hands and feet: Snakes like to hide where they can’t be seen, which includes holes in the ground, rock crevices, fallen logs, or long grass, and use a torch if walking at night as many snakes are active after dark.
  2. Wear protective clothing: Thick clothing like jeans and boots offer an extra layer of protection against bites.
  3. Don’t pick them up or interfere with them: Almost 1 in 5 snakebites happen when people provoke the snake. If you see a snake, give it space to move away, or go around it.
  4. Let them know you’re there: Snakes can’t hear very well but can sense vibrations in the ground. When walking in the bush, make noise and stomp your feet to scare off any nearby snakes.

Please note that snakes are protected. Killing or harming them is illegal and isn’t necessary for anti-venom identification purposes.


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First Aid

The best treatment for a snakebite is first aid followed by anti-venom. Call 000 or 112 as soon as possible. Snakebite first aid is simple, effective, and could save a life. Always carry a first aid kit and or bandages when out in the bush.

1. Apply a pressure bandage

  • Wrap a bandage from below, upwards, and over the bite site.
  • Extend it as high as possible (e.g to the groin).
  • Keep the limb still (e.g do not remove trousers).
  • Use the same tightness as for a sprained ankle.
  • Use a T-shirt or other clothing if you have no bandages.
  • Mark the area of the bite on the bandage.

2. Immobilise the bitten area

  • Apply a splint if possible.
  • Joints to both sides of the bite should be immobilized.

3. Call for help

  • Dial 000, or 112 if you are in a remote area with poor mobile coverage.
  • Monitor symptoms.

About 170 species of Australian land snake. And there are possible to get you bitten by a snake when you’re traveling in a desert area in Australia, so it is better to join an expert tourist guide a 4×4 tagalong tour is safer such as along the Madigan Line. Snakebites are quite rare and fatalities are low – around 4 per year dental emergencies can also be challenging to address.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service has released a report on their recent studies on Snake Bites and the advice you need to know. The new study has prompted the RFDS SE to reverse previous long-standing advice about the importance of identifying the color and type of snakes. 

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.” – Royal Flying Doctor Service