The Club supports members who undertake approved external training in first aid and bushcraft. Eligible members receive up to 50% subsidy of the course cost (see Training and Development Policy). The courses contribute to developing self-reliance in our members, especially when participating in activities in remote areas.

Members are also encouraged to download the St John Ambulance First Aid smartphone app. St John don’t suggest that a smartphone app replaces the importance of a hands-on first aid course, but this app could be a life-saving guide or refresher in the face of an emergency.

Snakebite

Snakebite is more a fear than a reality. W.A.’s highly venomous Dugites, Tiger Snakes and Death Adders are occasionally spotted during Club activities but the risk of snakebite is small. The actual incidence of death from snakebite in Australia is very low and bushwalkers are not identified in the statistics as a high risk group.

Tiger Snake COPrevention - Snakes rarely attack humans unless provoked, so rather than disturbing a snake in your pathway, simply alert the other members of your party to give it a wide berth. When walking off-track especially, wear ‘tough’ clothing: boots (or enclosed footwear), knee-high gaiters and long trousers. The lower leg is the most vulnerable to snakebite when bushwalking. When camping, use a tent with an integral floor and always zip up the doors. Use a torch at night.

Be observant; keep a watchful eye on the ground about a metre ahead of where you are walking, especially if there is long grass, rushes and undergrowth, near water, or rocks in sunny positions. In the warmer months, most snakes when startled will move quickly away. W.A’s Death Adders however are an ‘ambush’ snake and will sit perfectly still for days waiting for their prey to wander past, so even in summer they will not move away from you. In winter, snakes may temporarily emerge from hibernation to feed and bask during warm periods in mild areas; they will be slower to react if threatened, but are easier to stand on, so beware!

Recognition - Victims usually know they have been bitten. Symptoms may appear 15 minutes to 2 hours after the bite and may be mild or severe, depending on the species and the bite. Symptoms include: double vision, headache, nausea and vomiting, sweating, faintness, diarrhoea, chest pain, difficulty swallowing or breathing, swollen lymph glands in groin or armpit, drowsiness.

Treatment - Although the risk of snakebite is small if you take the above precautions, make sure you know the correct firstaid treatment for snakebite just in case!
The purpose of the recommended pressure-immobilisation first aid technique is to slow the movement of venom from the bite site into the blood stream, thus "buying time" for the patient to reach medical care. Very little venom reaches the blood stream if firm pressure is applied over the bitten area and the limb is immobilised. If a member of the party is bitten:

  1. Lay the victim down, to rest and keep them calm.
  2. Apply a broad pressure bandage (crepe preferred) over the bite site as soon as possible, without removing clothing if this means moving the limb. - DO NOT cut or wash a bite. Venom on bandages can be used to identify the snake, which is required to ensure the correct anti-venom is used. DO NOT apply an arterial tourniquet,
  3. Apply a firm heavy crepe or elasticised roller bandage starting just above the toes (or fingers) and moving upwards on the limb as far as can be reached. Apply tightly without stopping blood supply to the limb.
  4. Immobilize the limb with a makeshift splint.
  5. Ensure the patient does not move.
  6. If in mobile phone range, call Triple Zero 000 to request outside help to transport the patient. Give your GPS or map location, and time of the bite and when the bandage was applied. If there is no phone contact, dispatch other member/s of the party with knowledge of your location to bring outside help.
  7. Stay with the patient and constantly observe them for shock and possible respiratory failure.
  8. If external help is unavailable, the best option is probably to rest for a day or two, and then proceed to the nearest civilisation taking care to minimize stress to the patient.

Ticks

Ticks are often encountered in W.A.’s bush and most bushwalkers continue to regard them as just a very minor distraction from the pleasures of bushwalking. Occasionally however, a bite may become infected and should be seen by a doctor.

There has been much commentary in recent times regarding risks of possible tick-borne diseases and allergies on the east coast of Australia. To date there appears to be no confirmed similar occurrence in W.A.

The following summarises some precautions and how to deal with ticks.

Tick DGO

Prevention - To reduce the chance of picking up a tick during a walk it’s a good idea to:

  1. Wear light-coloured clothing so ticks can be easily spotted and removed quickly;
  2. Apply suitable insect repellent containing Picaridin or DEET (e.g. Repel, RID or Bushman Repellent) around shirt sleeve and trouser openings and around neckline etc before the walk starts. Tuck shirt in and tuck trousers into socks;
  3. For safe, extra protection you could also pre-soak your hat and clothing in a dilute permethrin solution which may remain effective for up to 12 months or up to 30 washes. (Equip DeBugger bottle costs around $25);
  4. While on the walk avoid brushing up against foliage or long grass when possible;
  5. Be vigilant. Check yourself during the walk and at the end of the day in case any have attached during your walk;
  6. After the walk place your pack and boots in the boot of your vehicle and spray with insect killer;
  7. On arriving home put your walk clothes in the washing machine on a long, hot cycle to kill any ticks;
  8. Finally, check in the shower that none are attached to your skin. Pay attention to head, behind ears, groin, armpits and back of knees.

Recognition - It is always wise to check yourself during the walk and at the end of the day to see if any ticks have attached during your walk. You will seldom feel any itching while a tick is attached so a good visual search is needed.

Treatment - Ticks are usually quite easy to remove but it is most important to avoid squeezing the body sac and releasing tick saliva and toxins into your bloodstream. The head itself does not bury into your skin; just the drill-like mouthpart (the hypostome). In the past many bushwalkers have simply levered ticks off with a finely pointed pair of tweezers as close to the skin as possible, using a gentle lifting motion. It is very unlikely that the mouthpart will break off and be left in your skin. (One of a variety of special tick removal devices that are now available could also be a useful addition to a first aid kit.)

A newer, recommended safer approach is to use a spray containing ether (e.g. Wart-Off Freeze Spray or Medi-Freeze Skin Tag Remover) to freeze the tick (avoiding freezing the surrounding skin), then wait about 10 minutes before brushing it off. The Wart-Off Freeze dispenser costs around $30 but is good for 15 applications.

Another approach that works well with large ticks is to place a looped thread over the tick and pull it down until it is between the tick and the skin, then tighten the loop and lift the tick off.

Tiny larval ticks ('nymphs') can also be safely removed with permethrin cream (e.g. Lyclear Scabies Cream) which is simply rubbed on to kill the ticks.

DO NOT use methylated spirits or other chemicals to kill ticks as they may respond by releasing their body contents into your bloodstream.

After removing a nymph or adult tick a small quite itchy swelling, similar to a mosquito bite will likely occur and may take some days to disappear. If concerned that a bite has become infected check with your GP. Similar to other insect bites, very rarely people may suffer a severe allergic reaction and then need urgent medical assistance.

Also see "Dealing with Ticks" - a convenient summary of the above information.