Snake and spider bites boosted by weather

By AAP with AG staff 20 March 2013
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Snake and spider bites in NSW alone have numbered over 300 this season, say paramedics.

A WOMAN BITTEN BY her pet tiger snake was among the hundreds of NSW residents that suffered from creepy-crawly bites this past spring and summer, new figures show.

NSW Ambulance statistics released on Wednesday reveal paramedics were called out to 288 spider bite and 136 snake bite incidents across NSW in the 2012-13 spring and summer.

The call-outs were most prevalent in the state’s north, where paramedics treated 155 events.

The Sydney region reported high figures as well, recording 153 incidents in the last six months.

Hot weather can increase spider activity

Dr Aaron Harmer, an arachnid researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, says the weather has been ideal for spider activity.

“It’s been hot weather followed by lots of rain, which causes the spiders to come indoors,” Aaron says. “Spiders and insects also tend to breed more in hot weather – combined, these [factors[ could cause an increase.”

The paramedics reported responses to a two-year-old boy bitten by a funnel web spider at North Epping, and a 71-year-old man who suffered multiple bites from a black snake at Oak Flats.

Most snake bites due to human behaviour

Professor Bryan Fry, a venom expert at the University of Queensland, says it’s very rare for accidental snake bites to occur in Australia. “More people die from falling in the shower than from snake bites. Most snake bites are entirely down to the person who has been bitten – probably because they’ve tried to kill it themselves.”

John Mostyn, a venom expert at the Australian Reptile Park and Wildlife Sanctuary at Somersby, says snake activity is expected to slow as the cooler months approach, although snakes would still be out looking for their last feeds before hibernation.

John warns that under no circumstances should a person try to catch a snake for its venom if they’ve been bitten. “Snakes should always be left alone. Hospitals have venom detection kits and they will be able to test the bite site.”

What to do in the event of a snake or spider bite

Following the release of the figures from NSW Ambulance, paramedic Kelly Ferguson had this advice to give to those who have been bitten by a snake or spider.

For snakes and funnel-web spiders:

* Call 000 and ask for an ambulance

* If the bite is on a limb, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage which does not cut off circulation

* If the bite is NOT on a limb, apply direct, firm pressure to the site with hands, keep the patient still and discourage them from walking around

* DO NOT cut or excise the wound and attempt to suck venom out, and DO NOT apply a torniquet

For red-back and other spiders:

* Call 000 and ask for an ambulance

* Apply an ice pack or cold compress to relieve pain

* If severe symptoms develop, seek medical aid


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