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Australian Venomous Snakes

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Australian venomous snakes may be considered the most deadly in the world, but how do the poisonous snakes of the rest of the world compare?

Snakebite is a significant problem around the world. Globally, at least 50,000 people die each year from snakebite, although some experts believe that the number of fatalities could even be as high as 100,000. Certainly, more than a million people worldwide suffer at least some ill effects from snakebite annually.

Snakes aren't all bad though as they are important predators of pest species such as mice and rats, which could potentially cause more human suffering if their numbers are not controlled.

Snake venoms also play an important part in biomedical research and have already proven beneficial in understanding certain diseases and in the development of medicines. A wealth of other potential benefits await discovery, making venomous snakes more of a blessing to humankind than a curse.

australian venomous snakes are amongst the most poisonous snakes in the world

Venomous Snakes in Australia

Of the 6 major families of venomous snakes in the world, Australia has 4 of them. In terms of venomous snake species, Australia has some of the world's deadliest including:

  • Inland or Western Taipan
  • Coastal Taipan
  • Common Brown Snake
  • Western Brown Snake
  • Eastern Tiger Snake
  • Black Tiger Snake
  • Common Death Adder
  • Northern Death Adder
  • Desert Death Adder
  • Highland or Alpine Copperhead
  • Lowland or Common Copperhead
  • Mulga or King Brown Snake
  • Blue-Bellied Black Snake
  • Red-Bellied Black Snake
  • Dugite Spotted Brown Snake
  • Rough-Scaled or Clarence River Snake
  • Stokes' Sea Snake
  • Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake

Interestingly, the Inland or Western Taipan is considered the most venomous snake in the world yet it has not been responsible for a single recorded fatality. Does Australia really have the most deadly snakes in the world?

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The Truth about Australia's Poisonous Snakes

Australia is commonly known as a dangerous and deadly place to many overseas tourists. However, in terms of snakebite, the reality is that only 2 fatalities occur in Australia each year.

Whilst as many as 3000 victims suffer from snakebite each year, many are not fatal thanks to Australia's efficient ability to treat snakebite with the appropriate anti-venom.

Australia's snakes are generally shy and elusive. They are more scared of us, than what we are of them and they generally only attack when provoked. In fact, most victims get bitten when trying to either kill or handle snakes.

Snakes can only inject their venom if they are able to break the skin. Australia's snakes have fangs that are considerably smaller than other deadly snake species from around the world. Besides, a snake's venom toxicity is usually measured in terms of its impact on mice and not humans.

Certainly, if you are bitten by a deadly Australian snake which has injected venom into you, there is a good chance that you will die if you do not get immediate medical attention. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent getting bitten in the first place.

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Prevention of Snakebite

It is much easier to prevent the possibility of getting bitten by a snake than treating snakebite. Common sense is the most important factor in avoiding snakebite altogether.

how to prevent snakebite

Never try to handle or kill a snake. Give it the opportunity to get away and it most probably will. If it must be moved, call a professional snake handler or someone experienced to do so.

When walking in bushland, the following guidelines may help you to avoid getting bitten by a snake - venomous or not.

  • Wear appropriate footwear and clothing to minimise exposed skin.
  • Look where you walk and do not step over obstructions such as logs or rocks without checking what is on the other side first.
  • Never bushwalk alone.
  • Always carry an appropriate first aid kit containing enough constrictive bandages to immobilise an adult's entire leg.
  • Never try to kill a snake. If you do see one stop and stand still. If the snake is moving away from you, very very slowly start backing away. Then, when you are far away enough from the snake - run like hell!
  • Always use a torch at night.

first aid treatment for snakebite

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First Aid for Snakebite

Not all snakes are poisonous and not all venomous snakes inject their lethal poison with every bite. Adult snakes have the ability to control when they inject their venom, baby snakes can not. So if you are bitten by a juvenile snake you must treat it the same as been bitten by an adult snake.

Also, you no longer need to identify the snake to get the correct anti-venom. So, if you do happen to get bitten don't run after the snake in order to identify it. Hospitals across Australia has very efficient venom-detecting machines and they will quickly be able to determine which anti-venom you require.

Remember, every snake bite must be treated as venomous and the following actions should be taken immediately:

  • Do not cut the wound or attempt to remove the venom by washing or sucking.
  • Do not apply an arterial tourniquet.
  • Apply a broad constrictive bandage to the limb as soon as possible. Always start at the bite site first and work towards the heart. Repeat at least twice. It is essential that you apply the bandage firmly but not tight enough to cut circulation. Always check circulation by squeezing either the tips of the fingers or toes and check that blood returns underneath the skin. If you do not have a bandage use clothing of other material to apply pressure to the limb.
  • If the bite is not on a limb, apply and maintain firm pressure to the bite site in order to prevent distribution of the venom.
  • Immobilise the limb using a branch, rolled magazine or newspaper or a sling in order to prevent the victim from moving the limb.
  • Reassure the patient and encourage them to rest and relax.
  • Call for help if possible or take the patient to the nearest hospital. Transport should be brought to the patient, but if that is not possible victim should be carried. If there is no other alternative, patient should walk but not run.
  • Bandage should only be removed by medical staff.

Snake bite should be treated seriously, but you will most likely never get bitten if you respect Australian venomous snakes and their importance to the environment.

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