13 July, 2024
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Aussies unprepared for nastier summer bites and stings


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With summer almost here, it’s been revealed many Australians are missing vital first aid knowledge about venomous bites and stings.

Vaccine provider CSL Seqirus commissioned a survey of more than 1000 adults, 670 of them parents: it showed almost one in three people had themselves or knew someone who had been bitten or stung by a venomous critter.

However less than one in 10 have received the necessary first aid training in the past 12 months.

According to the research, more than 3000 Australians are hospitalised each year after being bitten or stung by something venomous.

 Too many Australians don’t have the knowledge to prepare for chance summer encounters with snakes, spiders and other venomous animals, experts warn. Video by CSL Seqirus 

At last count, more than a quarter fall victim to bees or wasps, nearly one in five are attacked by redbacks or other eight-legged nasties, and   almost as many are set upon by venomous snakes, of which Australia boasts 20 of the world’s 25 most deadly.

And the most likely places to suffer such an unfortunate encounter? In their homes for 18 per cent, backyards (40 per cent), toilets (11 per cent) and at the beach (29 per cent).

Even so, Australians rarely think to take a first aid kit when they venture out, experts say.

To combat the problem, they’re being urged to download the free Australian Bites and Stings App, which includes a geolocation feature allowing them to share their co-ordinates with emergency services if they have at least one bar of coverage.

Appropriately, the campaign is being backed by the National Basketball League’s Cairns Taipans.

 Australia boasts 20 of the world’s 25 most venomous snakes including the eastern brown. Image by HANDOUT/The Australian Reptile Park 

Of those who took the survey, less than a quarter correctly identified the first aid steps for snake or funnel-web bites, and many wrongly thought a tourniquet should be used.

Just four per cent knew what to do if stung by a box jellyfish.

CSL Seqirus Medical Director Dr Julianne Bayliss says more people are enjoying summer outdoors but a changing climate means greater likelihood of meeting a venomous creature.

“The (federal) government ensures emergency treatments are available for Australians if they are bitten or stung,” he said.

“But knowing what to do in the immediate moments after … could make all the difference.”

 People are being urged to download the Australian Bites and Stings App. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

 Less than one in 10 parents said they were very confident in knowing exactly what to do if their child was bitten or stung, half the number who did in the same survey three years ago.

The latest research shows 40 per cent of mums and dads haven’t spoken to their kids about first aid for venomous bites and stings, many because they’re not sure what to say.

One in 10 expected the subject would be covered at school.

St John Ambulance CEO Brendan Maher says its first aid courses teach the essentials for responding to common bites and stings.

“Simple actions like calling triple zero, keeping a person calm and knowing how and when to apply a compression bandage or a cold pack can provide important intervention until further treatment is available,” he said.

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