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TASMANIANS need to be better prepared for the dangers posed by insects, snakes and other venomous creatures now summer has arrived, an emergency department doctor says.
Incidents involving venomous creatures including snakes, spiders and marine animals caused 41,521 hospitalisations in Australia between 2001-2013, but it seems many of us are not confident in providing first aid in an emergency.
A survey conducted by Seqirus — which produces a range of antivenoms against Australia’s most venomous snakes, spiders and marine animals on behalf of the Australian Government — found nearly half of Australians were unsure or not confident about what to do if they, or someone they were with, fell victim to a venomous bite or sting.
A free smartphone app — Australian Bites and Stings: First Aid Guide to Australian Venomous Creatures — has been launched to equip people with accurate first-aid information.
Associate Professor Bill Nimorakiotakis, from Epworth Richmond Emergency Department, says it could save lives.
The app includes a new function that provides users with information on which venomous creatures are most relevant to their geolocation
Assoc Prof Nimorakiotakis said Tasmania’s island status meant it was isolated from some of the nasties found on the mainland.
But he said there were still many creatures here whose bites and stings can cause pain or even death — particularly among those who are allergic to their venom.
“It is all about being prepared and knowing what species pose a risk and what first aid can be given to save lives,” Assoc Prof Nimorakiotakis said.
“We want people to go bushwalking and enjoy the outdoors — particularly in Tasmania which is so beautiful — but we also want them to know what to do if they are bitten or stung.”
In Tasmania, people need to watch out for tiger snakes, jack jumpers, spikes on some fish, ticks, sharks and a number of biting insects including bees and redback spiders.
In some cases, where allergies are present, a bite from a jack jumper, bee or a wasp can prove fatal.
“When a patient is allergic, the ermegency become much more serious and anaphalaxic management is needed,” St John Ambulance CEO Roxy Cowie said.
“Luckily today many people who know they are allergic to certain species’ stings carry an epi-pen.
“We also encourage Tasmanians to carry a snake bite bandage when they are out and about. It enables you to wrap the affected area tightly until you reach emergency care. It really does save lives.”
Assoc Prof Nimorakiotakis said the most important thing to remember when bitten by a tiger snake was to not panic.
“In 50 per cent of snake bite cases people receive a warning bite which does not contain any venom. But where there is venom restricting the patient’s movement is very important.
“We need to look to what the Aborigines did and that is to immobilise the victim because movement spreads venom through the system faster.
“Compress the wound tightly and then seek emergency help.”
He encouraged Tasmanians to brush up on their first-aid skills and take advantage of the new Australian Bites and Stings App.
“It is an easy-to-use resource and should be a summer essential for everyone,” he said.