Hiss the season

01 November 2023

Snakes love to make themselves at home during the warmer weather and it’s important to stay vigilant.

These reptiles come in many forms, and if you find yourself bitten it’s important to stay calm, have someone perform first aid and contact emergency services.

While this is happening, it’s also important that you’re monitored for any worsening symptoms.

Snake Venom Detection Kits

Once you arrive in hospital, pathology testing begins. In some cases the doctor may use a snake venom detection kit to assess the best antivenom to use.

Our Blood Bank team oversee the running of these tests, and the process is quick and simple.

A swab of the bite wound is taken – it’s important the area has not been washed prior. If it has, you may be asked to provide a urine or blood sample.

The sample is then placed into a dilutant before being transferred to the laboratory. There, the sample is placed onto a test strip containing 7 wells, with each well representing a different species of snake.

A multi-step incubation process follows, and the reaction of the wells is used to determine the best treatment path.

Hospital testing

Routine testing for suspected snake bite will include a clinical investigation looking for signs of flaccid paralysis (droopy eyelids, loose and floppy limbs), local skin changes, shock, bleeding, and changes to urine, and laboratory testing looking for evidence of cogulopathy (low platelet count, low fibrinogen, prolonged plasma clotting), bleeding, kidney damage, and rhabdoyolysis (rise in creatine kinase).

Recovery

Your treatment will depend on your pathology results and the severity of symptoms.

If you present with any of the listed symptoms, it is recommended you receive antivenom as soon as possible.

The dose of antivenom will depend on the type of snake and the degree of envenomation (severity of symptoms). The size of a patient or whether they are an adult or child, will also determine the amount of antivenom provided.

What next?

You’ll continue to be monitored in the hours after your treatment.

Pathology tests may be repeated to confirm the success of the antivenom treatment. You will also ideally find that your pain levels decrease.

Your doctor will discuss next steps with you, depending on your pathology results.

For detailed information about pathology tests and specific conditions visit pathologytestsexplained.org.au.

Time for your next blood test? Find a collection centre closest to you.

To book a specialised test call us on 8222 3000.

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