Written by Mark “Snake Hunter” Pelley
A snake bite can happen so fast, you will not have time to think. You only register that your child has been bitten by a deadly snake after it has occurred, and if you don’t act properly, you can have as little as 15 minutes before their life can slip away. Even with medical treatment, there is the strong possibility of long term serious injury including brain, kidney or organ damage, and related side effects.
This is the reality here in Australia as snake numbers increase and find their way into suburban and inner city areas more than people would care to think about. The most common place to find snakes is in people’s homes or backyards. Too many mums say to me: “You never think it will happen to you, until you find a snake in your home, then you panic, and realise you don’t know what to do.”
Be prepared this summer by taking the following steps:
1. Teach children to “stay away”.
This is not as hard as it sounds. There are plenty of reptile shows, zoos, picture books or more whereby you can and reinforce the message: Don’t touch unless an adult says you can.
In kindergartens, I run programs where we rehearse the motions of:
a. If you see a snake: “Step back” (We take 4 big steps back).
b. Use a loud voice: “There’s a snake”
c. Get a parent or teacher.
d. Stay away.
I encouraged the teachers and parents to keep reinforcing this message. For those who are in doubt, in one kindergarten, many months later after a session, one child saw a snake and did exactly as practiced.
2. Clean up
I know it sounds simple but it is important to do. If you leave scrap metal or hard rubbish around your lawn, or otherwise you have overgrown grass, shrubbery and weeds in your garden, then expect at some point that a snake may appear without you realising it. Conversely, having a clean garden does NOT prevent snakes from entering your property. Instead it helps you see if they’re around in advance.
You also need to clean up inside your house too. I’m finding more snakes inside suburban homes than outside it. A final point on this matter, if you have vermin around your premises (mice, rats), get rid of these as soon as possible – don’t give the snake a reason to stay.
3. Don’t be a hero.
The Australian Venom Research Unit discovered the people most likely to be bitten by snakes are almost always: Men, over the age of 40, in and around their own home, and after 4:00pm.
Because after work, he tries to save his family (or money). Sometimes they are successful but obviously sometimes not.
It is ever a case of: “Well it was either me or the snake”.
Snakes are shy creatures and will try to hide. They will bite if provoked, harmed or threatened. If you leave them alone, they will do the same to you. So don’t be a hero. Call your closest snake catcher, follow their advice and keep safe.
4. Snake repellents DON’T work.
These products do NOT work. I have caught multiple snakes wrapped around or near snake “protection” devices and snakes can find a way past snake “proof” fencing. Don’t rely on these products but instead be sure to follow through with all the steps given here.
5. Know what to do if bitten.
If your child is bitten by a snake, your actions in the first few minutes are critical to improving the chance of survival.
1. Keep a few compression bandages around the home, car and garage. If your child is bitten, you will panic and you do not want that to be the moment you try to remember “if” there is one in the old first aid box.
2. Do a professional first aid course that includes guidance on how to treat snake bites. If you haven’t done one for a while, do a refresher course. Practice performing the snake bite compression bandage technique repeatedly until you get it right. Don’t make the moment your child is bitten to be the first time you try this.
3. If your child is bitten, immediately remove them from the situation, call 000 and follow their instructions. You will need to arrange to transport your child to the hospital as this is a life-threatening emergency.
4. Do NOT put yourself or others at risk by trying to capture the snake.
5. Do NOT wash the bite site or suck out venom. This is counterproductive to treatment.
6. Teach your child that if they are bitten, to approach you immediately and that they will NOT get into trouble. This may sound strange, but your child might be afraid of what happened, that they would get into trouble, or simply just go silent because they don’t know what to do. By educating them to approach an adult, they will hopefully follow through when the time counts.
In summary, venomous snakes are more likely to be found in and around your own home than out in the bush. Therefore it is important to teach yourself and your child to know what to do if you see or are bitten by a snake. Taking the right steps can help protect your life and that of your child. Be safe this snake season.
For More information on Mark Pelley visit: www.snakehunter.com.au