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Pressure immobilisation

The pressure immobilisation technique was developed in the 1970s as a technique to slow the movement of venom throughout the body. Research has shown that when pressure is applied to the bite area, less venom reaches the bloodstream.

Pressure immobilisation is appropriate for bites from Funnel-web and Mouse spiders, snakes, Blue-ringed octopus, cone shells and sea snakes.

Do not use pressure-immobilisation for spider bites other than from a funnel web spider, jellyfish stings, stonefish and other fish stings, bites by scorpions, centipedes, beetles.

This video from the Australian venom research unit shows how to pressure immobilise a lower limb.

Applying a Pressure Immbolisation Bandage

(Call for help ASAP, trigger PLB if there is no mobile phone coverage)

2) Apply a broad pressure bandage over the bite site as soon as possible.
* Crepe bandages are ideal, but any flexible material may be used.
* Do not take off clothing, as the movement of doing so will promote the movement of venom into the bloodstream.
* Keep the bitten limb, and the patient, as still as possible.
* Bandage from the lower portion of the bitten limb upwards.

3) The bandage should be as tight as you would apply to a sprained ankle.
(Apply firm even pressure with the bandage, but not to tight, you do NOT want to reduce blood flow)

4) Extend the bandage as high as possible up the limb.

5) Apply a splint to the leg. Any padded rigid object may be used as a splint. E.g. a padded piece of wood or tree branch, rolled up newspapers etc – with towel or clothing as padding. Bind it firmly to as much of the leg as possible.

6) Keep the patient still and relaxed.

7) Lie the patient down to prevent walking or moving around.

8) Monitor patient and wait for rescue services to arrive.

For bites to other parts of the body, the Australian venom research unit suggests the following additional advice.

Bites to the hand or forearm
Bandage as much of the arm as possible, starting at the fingers. Use a splint to the elbow.
Use a sling to immobilise the arm. Keep the patient still. Lie the patient down to prevent movement walking or moving around.

Bites to trunk
If possible apply firm pressure over a large area covering bite/sting area. Do not restrict chest movement. Keep the patient still. Keep the pressure consistent untill help arrives.

Bites to head or neck
Keep the patient as still as possible, await for medication aid.

DOs and DON’Ts
The Australian venom research unit also makes the following points:

* DO keep the patient still and limit patient transportation as much as possible.

* DO apply pressure-immobilisation first aid even if the venom appears to have already got into the bloodstream: the application of pressure-immobilisation first aid may prevent further absorption of venom from the bite or sting site during transport to hospital.

* DO keep bandages and splints on until the patient reaches medical care.

* DO NOT cut or incise the bitten area.

* DO NOT apply an arterial tourniquet. (Arterial tourniquets, which cut off the circulation to the limb, are potentially dangerous, and are no longer recommended for any type of bite or sting in Australia.)

* DO NOT wash the bitten area or suck the bite. The type of snake involved may be identified by the detection of venom on the skin. If the snake can be safely killed, bring it to the hospital with the victim.