We’ve only just recovered from magpie season and now this! Summer is on its way and the creepy-crawlies are coming out of hiding to scare the bejesus out of us. But how scared do we really need to be? And what action should we take in the case of a bite?
Now there’s some good news and some very sad news when it comes to spider bites in Australia. It may come as a surprise that, for 37 years (from 1979 until 2016), there were no spider-bite deaths in this country. Zero. This has a lot to do with the effective antivenom for redback spiders that was introduced in 1956, followed by the one for funnel-web spiders in 1980.
Let’s put the ‘zero fatalities’ record in perspective. Snakes are far more dangerous, far more often. Every year, there are 4 to 6 deaths from snake bites in Australia. Most often from brown snakes or tiger snakes.
While death caused by spider bites is very rare, spider bites can still be extremely dangerous and we all need to be aware.
There are 2900 species in Australia (650 in UK) Only 3 are in the ‘highly dangerous’ category:
● Sydney funnel-web Spider (NSW)
● Other funnel web spiders (northern NSW and southern QLD)
● Redback spider (Australia-wide)
Seven others, including the mouse spider, trapdoor spider, white tailed spider, Australian tarantula spider, recluse spider, huntsman spider and golden orb spider, are also considered dangerous but rarely cause serious harm.
Huntsman spiders, for example, are reluctant to bite and their venom isn’t considered dangerous for humans. But they are still dangerous. Why? Because they give people a huge fright and cause accidents – like when they dangle down from the sun visor in the car. Eek! Check under visors and behind rearview mirrors before you start the ignition.
Funnel-web Spider Bite Treatment:
Apply Pressure Immobilisation Technique: The purpose of the pressure immobilisation technique is to restrain the movement of venom from the bite site into the circulation, thus “buying time” for the patient to reach medical care. Apply a bandage over the bitten area as tightly as you would for a sprained ankle and immobilise the limb. Extend the bandage up the limb. Only use the pressure immobilisation technique for funnel web spider and snake bites.
Do not use a tourniquet OR cut, suck or wash the bite site. Call 000/112
Keep the casualty at rest, reassured and under observation Follow the basic life support guidelines (DRSABCD).
Redback and other spider bite treatment:
● Keep casualty under constant observation
● Apply an ice pack or a cold compress to lessen the pain
● If the casualty is a young child, if collapse occurs or pain is severe follow the basic life support flow chart, call 000/112 or transport the casualty to medical assistance as soon as possible.
● Do not use a pressure immobilisation bandage
The following informational blog, researched and created by Australia Wide First Aid, is not to be taken as medical advice. If you have been bitten by a spider, please contact your closest medical professional for treatment.
If you wish to be educated on how to treat a spider bite while waiting for emergency services, we encourage you to book a Provide First Aid course, which includes CPR to confirm all correct precautions are taken to ensure you make a full and safe recovery after being bitten by a spider.