Snake bites factsheet


Australia has some of the most venomous snakes in the world. Venom is a type of poison that is delivered to the bloodstream through biting or stinging. Venomous snakes have long, sharp teeth or fangs which they use to bite.

Not all snakes are venomous, but it can be difficult to tell different snakes apart in the wild. All bites from snakes on the land and in the sea can be life-threatening and need emergency medical care in a hospital.  

 Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of a snake bite can look different depending on the type of snake.

General symptoms of a snake bite can include:

  • a bite mark that can range from visible holes in the skin to a tiny scratch
  • swelling of the skin that was bitten
  • bleeding from the bite mark
  • severe pain.

Do not wait for symptoms of a snake bite to show up. Call an ambulance on triple zero (000) for help.

When snake venom starts to spread through the bloodstream, other symptoms can include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • irregular heartbeat
  • cardiac arrest – when the heart stops beating
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal or belly pain
  • headaches 
  • dizziness and confusion
  • blurry vision
  • weak muscles
  • paralysis – not being able to move

Anaphylaxis and snake bites

Some children are at risk of severe allergic reactions to sea creature bites and stings. This is called anaphylaxis.

Signs of anaphylaxis include: 

  • wheezing, difficult, or noisy breathing 
  • swelling of the tongue
  • swelling or tightness in the throat
  • a persistent cough
  • difficulty talking or a hoarse voice
  • dizziness
  • becoming pale and floppy in young children
  • collapsing.

Children at risk of anaphylaxis may also vomit.

If your child has signs of anaphylaxis, you should:

  • follow your child’s ASCIA action plan for anaphylaxis if you have one
  • use an EpiPen® or Anapen®, if there is one available
  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.


Snake bites are life-threatening. If you think your child has been bitten by a snake, they will need to be checked and treated in hospital.


Snake bites are a medical emergency.

If your child is bitten by a snake, you will need to:

  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, even if you are out of phone reception
  • travel to the nearest emergency department if you cannot call
  • give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if they collapse or stop breathing.

Do not:

  • panic or run
  • try to catch or handle the snake
  • wash, cut or suck the bite area
  • apply a tourniquet or strap to stop blood flow.

First aid for snake bites

To give first aid for a snakebite:

  1. remove your child from danger
  2. Watch to make sure your child does not lose consciousness or stop breathing.
  3. call triple zero (000) for an ambulance and follow any instructions given over the phone
  4. wrap the bite and limb in a pressure bandage
  5. keep your child as still as possible until the ambulance arrives.

Pressure bandaging is used to stop the venom from travelling further into the body. Pressure bandages should be wrapped firmly, but not so tight that your child feels numb or their skin changes colour.

To apply a pressure bandage:

  1. wrap a firm, wide elastic bandage over the bite
  2. wrap a firm, wide elastic bandage over the entire limb – fingers to shoulder, toes to hip
  3. use a splint or another hard object to keep the limb straight.

If you do not have an elastic bandage, you can use:

  • clothing
  • towels
  • socks or stockings.

Treatment in hospital

In the hospital, your child will have regular checks and blood tests to:

  • confirm whether they were bitten by a venomous snake
  • manage any developing symptoms
  • make sure they are conscious and breathing well.

Blood tests are also used to check what type of anti-venom needs to be used to treat the snake bite.

Anti-venom is a special medication that can be injected into the bloodstream. Anti-venom treats snake bites by stopping the venom from working.

The type of anti-venom used to treat a snake bite depends on:

  • where your child was when they were bitten
  • the type of snake they were bitten by
  • if the specific type of snake is not known, the type of snakes that live in the area.


Preventing snake bites

Teaching your child to leave snakes alone is one of the most important ways you can help prevent bites. Snakes bite to defend themselves from humans and animals, so bites often happen when a snake is picked up, threatened, or stood on by accident. 

If your child does come across a snake, they should:

  • be calm
  • back away to a safe distance
  • let the snake move away on its own.

It is helpful to recognise where snakes might live or hide, including:

  • around water – creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes
  • long grass
  • woodlands, forests and bushlands
  • backyards
  • sheds and houses
  • piles of dead leaves, or leaf litter
  • near sources of food, like frogs, reptiles, mice and rats

Snakes can also come out during the day and at night.

You can also support your child to keep safe from snakes by:

  • using a torch when walking around outside or in garden sheds at night
  • making noise and stomping or shuffling your feet when you are in the bush or grassy areas to let snakes know you are there
  • being careful of where you walk, put your hands, or sit when outside
  • wearing proper, closed-in boots or shoes with thick socks to protect feet and ankles from bites.
Last updated Monday 15th April 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024