with animals can cause problems
for the traveller and any unnecessary contact with them should
be avoided. Many large mammals are easily capable of killing
Few animals will pick a fight with humans but most
will defend themselves if cornered or surprised and females
will defend their young aggressively. When venturing into
wildlife country on foot be sure to take a guide who understands
the local animals. Take great care when walking through long
grass or dense scrub which could conceal a potentially dangerous
Large carnivores cannot be outrun so are better faced.
Try shouting, throwing rocks or waving sticks which may confuse
the animal and make it back away. Running away is just what
the prey would do and could precipitate an attack. Be very
careful when camping in big cat country. Don't sleep in a
tent with anything that may attract a large creature, bears
will rip open tents to get at the contents.
are many dangerous animals to be found roaming
freely in parts of Africa and Asia.
As well as the big cats, these include include rhinos, hippos,
elephants and (African) buffaloes which can be particularly
aggressive. Large primates like baboons and chimpanzees can
be particularly dangerous. It pays to be well informed when
travelling into areas where these animals are found. If you
are going on a safari to a game reserve, stay inside your
vehicle when appropriate and always follow the advice of your
travelling close to rivers in Africa, South America and
parts of Australia beware of crocodiles which can be lurking
in shallow water near to the river bank.
Because we have so much contact with domestic animals,
we are much more likely to be injured by them than by wild
animals. Travellers have been injured by cats, dogs, cattle,
pigs, camels, water buffalo, elephants, etc. Be wary of any
domestic animals you do not know.
far the most common domestic animal responsible for attacks
on humans are dogs. Worldwide they are responsible for hundreds
of deaths annually.
many countries they often run wild and may respond aggressively
If you are threatened by a dog pick up a stick and
wave it or some stones to throw at it or even pretend to if
none are around. Most dogs will retreat if they think you
Dog bites not only inflict severe injury but can also
spread dangerous infections like tetanus or even rabies.
Rabies is present
worldwide - except in the United Kingdom, parts of Scandinavia,
Japan, Oceania, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Malta
and some of the Caribbean islands. It can be transmitted to
humans in several ways, but most commonly via the bite of
an infected domestic dog. Rabies, if left untreated, will
always cause death!
Do not stroke dogs and
cats and avoid contact with bats, jackals, foxes and other
wild animals. Animals that appear unusually tame may be dying
In an area endemic for
rabies all unprovoked bites or licks should be considered
a possible exposure.
In the event of possible
exposure to rabies immediate treatment should be instigated:-
- Thorough cleansing of the
wound should be undertaken with soap or detergent and running
water for 5 minutes.
- Apply an antiseptic such as
iodine, chlorhexidine or alcohol.
- Seek medical assistance as
soon as possible.
may be necessary to commence rabies vaccination and anti-tetanus
measures. If you have been immunised against rabies prior
to being bitten you may still require further doses of vaccine.
Travellers who have never been immunised against rabies and
then receive a suspect bite, should be vaccinated within 24-48
Most species of snakes are harmless and over half of the
venomous species do not have the capability or temperament
to be harmful. Even aggressive and venomous species will very
often inflict a "dry bite" which is venom free.
Snakes do not like to waste their venom on anything other
than prey species. Remember, only one in a thousand people
bitten by a snake actually dies as a result. Most deaths from
snake bites occur on the Indian subcontinent where they are
often forced into contact with humans.
However, if you are bitten by a snake you should always
be assessed by an expert as it is often quite difficult for
ordinary travellers to distinguish between dangerous and harmless
species of snakes are found in many tropical and desert
regions and local inhabitants are occasionally bitten and
sometimes killed by them. Foreign travellers are rarely
Although snakes are found worldwide, the counties of the
world where travellers are most likely to encounter venomous
snakes are include; Australia, North, South and Central America,
Africa, The Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia.
you are bitten by a snake
- stay calm and get
- immobilise the bitten
- avoid tampering with
- remove any rings
or jewellery from the bitten limb
the bite at or below the level of the heart.
- apply a pressure
bandage firmly to the bite site and cover as much
of the bitten limb as possible
- get the victim to
a hospital or clinic for prompt treatment
- DON'T PANIC!
Snakes never attack without
provocation, they are generally shy and where possible,
shun human contact. Avoid disturbing, cornering or handling
Walking barefoot in vegetation, swimming in murky water
and climbing rocks and trees covered with foliage are all
risky. At night use a torch. Never tease a snake as teasing
could cause the snake to increase the dose of venom.
If you are bitten, move away from the snake to prevent
First aid for snakebite is controversial. The only universally
approved first aid applicable globally, is immobilisation
of the bitten area/limb and keeping the victim still. The
victim should then be transferred to a hospital or clinic
for medical treatment if available. This should involve the
minimum of exertion by the victim as possible.
venom travels primarily via the lymphatic system. Therefore,
to prevent the spread of venom the movement of lymph needs
to be restricted. This is achieved by immobilising the bitten
area (usually a limb), keeping it level with or just below
the heart and by the application of a pressure bandage.
You should NEVER apply a tourniquet to a snake bite. A
tourniquet is a tight band placed around a limb designed to
restrict the blood flow to and from the limb. Inappropriate
use of tourniquets can lead to unnecessary loss of the limb.
A splinted bandage to immobilise the limb can often be of
more use. A suction device may be used to help draw
the venom out of the wound without making cuts.
Whilst moving the victim to get medical help, monitor
their vital signs i.e. pulse and rate of breathing. If there
are signs of shock, lay them flat, raise their feet and try
to keep them warm. Reassure them that bites can be
effectively treated by trained medical staff.
some areas where venomous snakes are endemic (such as
Australia), venom detection kits are often used by medical
personnel. These allow the site to be swabbed and a sample
of venom collected which is used to accurately identify the
snake or group of snakes to which the biter belongs to. This
enables the use of more specific and more effective antivenom.
Washing the bite may remove traces of venom that otherwise
could be detected by the kit. However, these kits are not
always available to medical staff in poorer developing countries
so in this instance cleaning the wound thoroughly with an
antiseptic soap or solution would a good idea.
will be greatly assisted if the snake can be accurately identified.
If the snake can be captured and/or killed without risk of
anyone else being bitten, take it to show the doctor at the
treatment clinic. Anti-venom when available should only be
administered by those experienced in its use.
you are travelling through areas where venomous snakes
are endemic and/or problems with them have been previously
walking around, make plenty of noise, wear boots or
strong shoes and long trousers, and watch where you
step or place your hands.
under a mosquito net that is well tucked in.
sleep on the ground unless you are in a tent with
a sewn in groundsheet.
areas where snakes may be hiding -- under rocks, logs,
ahead of you with a walking stick before entering
an area with an obscured view of your feet. Snakes
will attempt to avoid you if given adequate warning.
dark, always carry a torch.
you see a snake, keep your distance.
your common sense.
Spiders & Scorpions
Although most spiders are
venomous, very few species are able to penetrate human
skin and inject venom. Of those that can, only a few species
in Australia and South America cause neurotoxicity requiring
specific anti venom treatment.
species of spider include:-
- The Black Widow which
is found in the Americas, Africa, southern Europe and warm
parts of Asia and Australia. The bite gives rise to painful
muscle spasms which can last up to two days.
- The Brown Recluse or Fiddle
Spider which is found in the Americas, North Africa
and the Mediterranean. Its bite can be fatal but deaths
are rare. The bite which is initially painless causes localised
tissue death leading to severe scarring. Deaths are rare.
- The Funnel Web mainly
found in south and eastern coastal regions of Australia
(the Sydney Funnel Web) and is a particularly nasty spider
which is easily capable of causing human fatalities. Antivenin
- Huntsman Spiders or Banana
Spiders located in South America are quite aggressive
and cause painful bites but are rarely fatal.
- Wolf Spiders are mainly
found in South America but there is a European species.
The bites cause tissue death leading to scarring up to 20cm
long. It is rarely fatal.
The vast majority of spider bites are non-fatal but some
can be very painful. Try to immobilise the affected limb and
seek medical assistance. Ice can be applied to the bite site
and antihistamines and pain killers may also be used to treat
Bites from the truly poisonous spiders such as Funnel
Webs (left) should be treated like snake bites and medical
assistance should be sought as soon as possible. The spider
should be killed and taken along to the doctor for identification.
The spider bite victim should be transported as quickly and
as passively as possible to the nearest place where they can
be seen by a medically-trained person.
are usually found in arid regions. They like to hide in
dark shady places and sometimes they will hide inside your
boots. Therefore, you should always check your footwear
before putting them on in areas where scorpions are found.
They sting in self defense using their tail sting which
in most cases is very painful rather than life threatening.
However, potentially lethal scorpions do exist in Mexico,
South America, The Caribbean, North Africa, the Middle East
and the Indian subcontinent which can cause neurotoxicity
with blurred vision and breathing difficulty, myocardial damage
and pancreatitis. Immediate medical help should always be
sought if bitten.
First aid for scorpion bites is similar to that of
spider bites. Wash the sting area and apply a cold compress.
Immobilise the the victim and seek rapid medical help. Antihistamines
and painkillers may be used to treat the pain and swelling.
There are antivenins available for the more dangerous species
but these must be given quickly.