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Bites and Stings

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Bites and stings from native fauna are a common problem in Australia, some of which can cause serious illess or, rarely, fatalities. Snake bite, spider bite and jellyfish stings in Australia can potentially be a life-threatening condition.
Click 'Reveal Response' to manage common bites and stings.

Australian snakes are amongst the most venomous in the world. Snake bites in Australia from land or sea snakes can be potentially fatal and you should seek immediate medical assistance for all snake bites. While not all snakes are venomous, it is difficult to reliably identify a snake; hence all snake bites should be treated as being potentially dangerous.

If the person collapses or stops breathing, start resuscitation.

If snake bite occurs, keep in mind the following DOs & DON'Ts:

DO:


DON'T:

  • Panic or run
  • Attempt to catch the snake
  • Apply a tight tourniquet
  • Wash, suck or cut the bite site

First Aid for snake bite 

  1. Call 000
  2. Keep the person who has been bitten as still as possible. If possible, lie the patient down to prevent walking or moving around.
  3. Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage (preferably use a wide elasticised bandage if available)
  4. Keep still await the arrival of the ambulance for transport to the nearest hospital.

In Australia the only spiders to cause harm to humans are the Red Back Spider and the Funnel Web Spider.


Red Back spider

The red back spider is found throughout Australia. The female red back spider has a red or orange stripe on its back while the male is very small, usually with no stripe. A red back spider bite may result in pain and redness at the bite site, and occasionally symptoms in other parts of the body (e.g. chest pain, leg sweating, headache). Red back spider bites are NOT life-threatening. Routine use of antivenom is no longer recommended as recent trials show antivenom has a low response rate little better than placebo, and any effect is less than might be achieved with standard pain relief. - More Information


First Aid:

  • Wash the area and keep it clean
  • Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 
  • If symptoms are severe, go to the nearest hospital
  • It is usually not necessary to call an ambulance
  • Do NOT apply a pressure immobilisation bandage


Funnel Web spider

This spider is large and black. A bite from this spider can be life-threatening. A bite will usually cause severe pain, sweating, vomiting, difficulty breathing and muscle twitching.


First Aid:

  • Remove the patient from danger
  • Keep the patient still
  • Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage around the bite and then bandage the entire limb
  • Call an ambulance (000) to take the person to the nearest hospital

Note: White-tail spiders are not venomous to humans and do NOT cause skin ulcers or necrotic arachnidism - More information
Marine animals

Blue bottles

Stings from Physalia species leave a painful whip-like wavy line on the skin from the tentacle.

First Aid:

  • Clear away the tentacles
  • Immerse in hot water for 20 minutes for pain relief or have a hot water shower (be mindful to supervise children with hot water)
  • Do NOT apply a pressure immobilisation bandage
  • Seek medical advice if pain continues

Tropical jellyfish

Australian jellyfish are extremely dangerous and can cause death. Box jellyfish and irukandji are found in the tropical waters of northern Australia - see map.

First Aid:

  • Remove the person out of water
  • Pour vinegar over the affected areas of skin
  • Carefully remove any tentacles
  • Do NOT apply a pressure immobilisation bandage
  • Call 000 if box jellyfish sting, or if pain persists, transport the patient to medical care
  • If the person is unconscious or stops breathing, start resuscitation

Blue-ringed octopus & Cone snail 

Blue-ringed octopus bites and cone snail stings can be life-threatening, as they can cause paralysis and stop breathing.

First Aid:


Sea snakes

Sea snakes are venomous and highly dangerous. Treat as for snake bite.

First Aid:

  1. Call 000
  2. Keep the person who has been bitten as still as possible. If possible, lie the patient down to prevent walking or moving around.
  3. Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage (preferably use a wide elasticised bandage if available)
  4. Keep still await the arrival of the ambulance for transport to the nearest hospital.
  5. If the person is unconscious or stops breathing, start resuscitation
Bees, wasps & ants

A bee, wasp or ant sting can cause pain and/or swelling. Some people may have an allergic reaction to the sting, which may causing a rash, vomiting, collapse or difficulty in breathing. Seek medical attention straight away if an allergic reaction occurs.


First Aid:

  • Remove the sting by pulling it out or scraping it away; you may need tweezers, a credit card or something firm.
  • Wash the area with water and keep the area clean and dry.
  • Apply ice or cool running water to reduce swelling and relieve pain (do NOT apply ice to the eye).
  • Seek medical attention straight away if any reaction occurs 
  • If a person has been stung more than five times, seek medical attention.
  • If the person collapses or stops breathing, call 000 and start resuscitation.

Scorpions & centipedes
In Australia, scorpions and centipedes do not cause envenomation. However, they can cause a painful bite or sting.

First Aid:

  • Wash the area with water and keep the area clean and dry.
  • Apply ice or cool running water to reduce swelling and relieve pain (do NOT apply ice to the eye).
  • Call 13 11 26 or seek medical attention if pain persists