The Truth About Spider Bites in Australia – Identification and First Aid

Last Updated on: 23rd May 2022, 01:50 am

Ever wonder which spider bites may be harmful to man?

It can be difficult to know if a bite from a spider is dangerous or not. Spider bites are common, but most bites from certain species only cause minimal or no effects at all. Many people may have been misinformed on the nature and consequences of a spider bite.

Understanding spider bites can assist you and your GP in the management of them. This article will guide you on everything about Australian spiders – from identification, bite prevention to first aid.

Find out what to do if you suffer from a spider bite and how to identify a spider.

Spiders in Australia

There are over 2000 species of spider in Australia, yet only a small portion of those actually pose a risk to humans. All spiders have venom glands, but only a few of them have fangs that are large enough to puncture the skin and cause a reaction.

The first death in Australia from spider bite reaction occurred in 2016 – 35 years after the last recorded death since 1981. Despite the lower fatality rate in spider bites, approximately 2000 people are still bitten every year.

To give you an idea, here are some of the deadliest spiders in Australia.

1. Sydney Funnel-Web

The Sydney Funnel-Web spider is, without doubt, the most dangerous species of spider found in Australia. It is also a candidate for one of the most dangerous spiders in the world in the effect their bites have on humans and our primate relations.

It is mostly found in New South Wales, particularly in the forests and urban areas. Reports said that the Sydney Funnel-Web has been found in Australian backyards and swimming pools. These dangerous species can be quite aggressive when they feel threatened. They are 1 to 5 cm in size, black to bluish-black, have a shiny appearance, with large, powerful fangs.

2. Other Funnel Web-Spiders

Next on the list of Australian deadly spiders are the northern tree & smaller southern tree funnel-web spiders. Just like their Sydney Funnel-Web cousin, these species are not to be messed with. They are generally found in Southern Queensland and Northern New South Wales, where they prey on insects and frogs but can attack humans when threatened. Half of the bites from these funnel web-spiders result in envenoming, so you definitely do not want to take your chances here.

3. Redback spiders

Redback spiders are commonly found in disturbed and urban areas across all of Australia. Bites from these species frequently occur, particularly over the summer months. Current statistics show that more than 250 cases receive antivenom each year, with several milder envenomation that probably is unreported. Only the female bite from a redback spider is dangerous, and it can cause serious illness and have caused deaths.

4. Australian Tarantulas

Australian Tarantulas are known to be non-fatal to humans. However, these species of spiders can render painful bites due to their large fangs. Take note that an Australian Tarantula bite can be fatal to animals, especially to dogs. Australian Tarantulas are commonly found in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and can be traced as far south as Victoria.

5. Recluse Spiders

The recluse spider has one of the more serious bites on our list of Australian deadly spiders. Its venom is haemotoxic, which according to spider definition, can cause damages to your blood cells and disrupt the blood clotting process.

It is commonly found in southern parts of Australia, and the recluse spider grows up to 2cm in length. Although the venom from these species when bitten can cause severe health problems, they are not inclined to bite. In the last 20 years, no cases have of recluse spider bites have been reported.

Envenomation or Anaphylactic Shock due to Spider Bites

The spider bite symptoms may vary depending on the species that bit you.

In general, the affected individual can experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain and swelling at the bitten area
  • Profuse sweating
  • Abdominal or generalised pain
  • Involuntary muscle contractions,
  • Headache,
  • Fever or chills
  • Feeling of weakness
  • Loss of consciousness

It is common knowledge that spider bites can trigger anaphylactic shock or severe allergy. Symptoms of these can include difficulty breathing, wheezing, development of rashes or hives, stomach cramps, itchiness, and swelling in some areas, including the mouth, throat, and face.

First Aid for Spider Bites

Bites from the spiders from the above list can be very dangerous. Provide emergency care — including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if necessary.

If someone gets bitten by these spiders, follow these steps:

  • Remain calm and if it is possible, try to identify the type of spider. Do it in a safe way that won’t get you in further trouble. Identification will help aid in medical treatment.
  • Wash the bite area using soap and clean water. Once the area is clean, apply an antibiotic lotion or ointment to prevent infection.
  • Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to the bite area to help reduce the swelling.
  • Elevate the bite area if possible.
  • Do not attempt to remove venom by yourself and immediately seek professional medical attention.

For non-emergency bites, call your local poison control to report the incident and get further instruction.

To protect yourself from a spider bite, shake out clothing before putting them, especially if you store them in an attic, basement, or garage. Keep your home free of clutter, particularly in corners or rooms that you do not often use. Call a professional pest control service if you have concerns about having spiders in an area of your home.

If you or someone believes a venomous spider has bitten them, they should see a doctor immediately. Children, especially those with weak immune systems, are at higher risk for a venom reaction. A systemic reaction to the venom can cause serious complications or, rarely, death.

If you are unsure if the spider that bit them is poisonous, contact emergency services or see your doctor. Proper diagnosis of a spider bite can lead to more effective treatment and a shorter recovery time.

Get Trained.

We encourage you to learn First Aid to treat a spider bite while waiting for emergency services.

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