Did you know that we have thousands
of different species of spiders in Australia?
Some spider bites can be very
serious. If you’ve been bitten (or suspect you’ve been bitten) by a funnel-web
spider or mouse spider (both of which are large and black), call 000 for
immediate medical assistance. Firmly bandage the affected limb and keep quiet
and calm until help arrives.
If you’ve been bitten by a redback
spider (identified by an orange to red stripe along the back), immediately wash
the area with soap and water. Apply a cold pack for 15 minutes, and reapply if
pain continues. If severe symptoms develop, seek medical assistance.
Luckily, most spiders are
relatively harmless, causing little more than some localised pain and swelling
or redness. Some spiders can cause little to no pain when they bite —
especially if you’re asleep. So how do you know if you’ve been bitten?
The symptoms of a spider bite will
vary depending on the type of spider. For this reason, it’s advisable to try
and catch the spider if possible, to help identify the species. Do this by
placing an empty jar over the spider and then sliding paper or card underneath.
Keeping the card or paper at the mouth of the jar, turn the jar right way up
and replace the paper or card with the jar’s lid.
Mild to moderate symptoms of a
spider bite include redness and itching, sharp pain at the bite site, and
nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
According to St John Ambulance Australia, other symptoms can include profuse sweating,
swelling, blistering and a burning sensation.
Additional symptoms of a funnel web
or mouse spider bite are copious secretion of saliva, difficulty breathing,
muscular spasms, numbness around the mouth, tears, disorientation, a fast
pulse, increased blood pressure, and confusion leading to unconsciousness.
Additional symptoms of a redback
spider bite include intense pain at the site of the bite which increases and
spreads, patchy sweating, headache, muscle weakness or spasms.
As stated above, if you know or
suspect you’ve been bitten by a funnel-web spider or mouse spider, call 000 for
an ambulance and ask the patient to keep as still as possible. St John
Ambulance has a fact sheet that explains how to apply an elasticised roller bandage over the
limb immediately while you wait for help to arrive.
If you’ve been bitten by a redback
spider, wash the site with soap and water and then ice the bite for 15 minutes,
and repeat if symptoms persist. If the symptoms get worse, seek medical
For other bites, speak to your
doctor or local pharmacist. If you’ve managed to trap the spider, take it with
you to help identify the species and course of treatment. Topical numbing
creams can help to relieve itching, while panadol or ibuprofen can help to
Preventing spider bites
There are steps that you can take
to help prevent being bitten by a spider. These include:
screens and draught strips on your doors and windows to prevent spiders from
entering your home.
shaking out shoes or clothing that has been left outside.
outdoor furniture for spiders before use, and wearing long trousers and
long-sleeved clothing where possible when sitting outside or working in the
garden (as well as wearing gardening gloves).
that the windows of your car are rolled up when it is parked.
leaving piles of clothing, towels or bedding on the floor.
when going outside.
If you’re in doubt, it’s best to
seek medical attention as spider bites can be dangerous. Your local Capital
Chemist pharmacist is only a phone call away and can help provide advice.