Australia is home to some of the most venomous spiders in the world – one of which is the Redback spider or the Australian black widow.
Redback spiders, with their scientific name Latrodectus hasseltii, are extremely common in Australia. These species of spiders are often found in considerable numbers in towns and cities in Western Australia. They are most visible in dry places, including households, buildings, outdoor parks and gardens, furniture, machinery, and even in stacked materials. They nest under logs and rocks in the bushes.
Australian Redback spiders rarely bite humans. When disturbed, they usually try to escape or fake death by curling their legs and dropping to the ground. They have tiny fangs, but their bites are immediately painful. Few seconds following the bite, you will feel a sharp pin-prick that may cause severe pain, leading to a more general.
Redback spider bites are capable of causing death, especially in small children and people with underlying health issues. For that reason, any bite should be treated with the utmost caution.
If you or someone else has suffered a bite from a redback, the first thing you need to determine is how dangerous the condition is. Know your symptoms to know whether you need to be attended to by an ambulance or just seek a doctor’s consult in follow-up.
The general symptoms of a redback spider bite include:
- Immediate pain at the bite site which can become hot, red, and swollen
- Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
- Salivating and profuse sweating five minutes after the bite
- Swelling of glands in the groin or armpit of the limb where it is bitten
- Numbness or tingling around the mouth
Redback spider bites are rarely life-threatening, but they can be in rare cases. If someone is bitten by a redback spider, follow these first-aid steps.
First Aid for Redback Spider Bite
If you are bitten by a deadly redback spider, it is important to follow the DRSABCDM protocol. DRSABCD stands for danger, response, send (for help), airway, breathing, CPR, and defibrillation.
It means you need to assess the scene first to make sure you, the victim, and bystanders are not in any form of danger. If the area is safe, proceed on to checking the victim’s response and send for help by calling Triple Zero (000). Check if the victim has a clear airway or if he or she is breathing normally.
If not, prepare to perform CPR and use an AED for defibrillation if necessary.
After that, do the following first aid steps:
Keep the patient as still and calm as possible.
Lie the patient down on their back and ask them to keep still. Reassure them while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
Do not panic. Remember that the effects of a redback spider bite can take hours, even days, to take effect. Meaning, there is ample time for the victim to reach the hospital to receive anti-venom treatment. The sooner the victim receives treatment, the better.
Clean the wound
Wash the bitten area with clean water and soap. Apply a cold pack on the bite site for 15 minutes and reapply if the pain and swelling did not subside. Ice can alleviate pain – however, do not apply it directly to the skin as it can cause tissue damage. Wrap it in a towel instead.
Do not use the Pressure Immobilisation Technique
Avoid any application of restrictive bandages to the bite. The amount of venom injected by the redback spider is tiny and moves very slowly. Thus, the restriction only causes more pain and damage.
Keep the casualty under constant observation
If the victim develops severe symptoms, prepare to give CPR. Stay with the person until help arrives.
Always remember that prevention is the best first aid when it comes to a spider bite.
Awareness of different species of spiders and where they live is an important aspect of prevention. Having this knowledge can put appropriate preventative steps in place. If you are working in an area that is popular in having spiders or doing some gardening, make sure to use gloves and shoes. Wear covered clothing and do some checking before approaching spider areas.
Most spiders in Australia do not produce venom that results in dangerous reactions when they bite. However, a bite from a redback spider can be fatal in rare cases. If you are the first person on the scene, your first aid training will help you identify the signs and provide the treatment needed.