Venomous Spider - After Hours GP

Spider Bites: Is it dangerous? What should you do if you are bitten?

This article is about spider bites in Australia, but doesn’t constitute medical advice. Always see a medical professional if you believe you’ve been bitten or stung by an insect.

We live in a world full of nasty and sometimes dangerous crawling, tingling and hanging insects. Spiders are the most common citing, if not the most favourite, for an average Australian home. With over 40,000 different spider species, and 10,000 of whom reside in Australia, you are bound to come across a spider this summer whether indoors at home or out and about in the bush. Although most spiders are not harmful, some can cause significant morbidity and in rare cases, mortality. Our home doctor teams have treated an increasing number of patients this summer complaining of insect bites, commonly spiders. It is important to understand the symptoms associated with a venomous spider bite and in this article we explore this topic further.

Something bit me, does it look like a Spider Bite?

Most spiders have venom, which they use to paralyse their prey. The venom can induce a varying systematic natural response in humans. Spider bites can also vary in symptoms from one person to another. That is, some people will have more sensitivity to a spider venom compared to others. Symptoms can also vary depending on species of spider, and resultantly type of venom.The few Australian spiders that can cause potentially harmful bites include the funnel-web, the mouse, the red-back, and the white tailed spiders. Below are some mugshots of these selected spiders.

Spider bite

Common Symptoms of a Spider Bite

There are two main types of spider venoms classified by RACGP, as neurotoxic (affecting nervous system), or cytotxic (causing tissue damage). Below are common symptoms of a spider bite that a person may exhibit. Not every person will experience these symptoms, some may have a combination, others may only have one.

  • Redness and Itching
  • Localised Swelling
  • LocalisedPain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Dilated Pupils
  • Muscle Spasms

Typically a spider bite will generate a local reaction marked by redness, swelling, itching or local skin sensitivity. Some people may also experience systemic effects such as hypertension, agitation, fever, or cardiac effects. If the pain or swelling increases in severity (radiating away from site of bite), or you start noticing necrosis (black tissue) around site of bite, you should seek urgent medical attention. See images below for some common skin symptoms for venomous spider bites

Spider bite

Is Treatment Available?

Most non-venomous spider bites can be treated with over-the-shelf pharmacy medications, however, you should always consult a medical professional before beginning treatment. Our home doctors in Perth can assist with assessment and local treatment of spider bites. For venomous spider bites, patients may require antivenom which is available at Emergency Hospitals for immediate treatment.

Tips on avoiding Spider Bites

Our after hours home doctors have put together a list of tips to avoid exposure to spider bites this summer.

  • If outdoors or working in the garden, always wear gloves, long trousers and shoes.
  • Inspect any suspected spider web or laid with a stick and not your hand.
  • Don’t leave clothes on the floor, the creepy crawlies love to hide. If you do pick clothes from the floor, shake them before you put them on.
  • Educate and instruct your children to avoid encountering Spiders.

More Help and Information is Available

If you would like more information on a spider or spider bite, you can reach the poisons information centre on 13 11 26 (open 24 hours a day). If you are concerned about the wellbeing of a person with a suspected venomous spider bite, call the emergency services on 000.

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