Australian Spiders

A Guide To Venomous Australian Spiders

Australia is home to several venomous spider species.  Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation in the general public regarding the toxicity of certain spider species, and this blog post will attempt to fix that. So which spider species should you worry about a lot, and which not so much?  Well in fact, most species can cause painful bites with localised symptoms such as redness, itching and perhaps a lump.  Spider bites can also become infected if they are not cleaned well at the time of the bite or soon after.  But which spiders can make us really sick in Australia?

sydney funnel web spider

Funnel-Web Spiders

The Syndey funnel-web (Atrax robusta) is the most venomous spider in Australia.  It is perhaps the only spider in Australia that is capable of killing a human, however with improvements in medical treatment and the use of anti-venom; deaths are very rare.  The unfortunate issue with Australia’s most venomous spider is that it lives exclusively in Australia’s most populous city – Sydney.  Sydney funnel webs are very aggressive.   They have large, strong fangs that have been known to pierce items such as thin plastics and even aluminium cans.  They can inflict multiple painful bites, and tend to cling on.  If you have been bitten by a ‘big black spider’ in Australia, you should apply a pressure immobilization bandage to the affected limb as shown here. You will then need to get urgent transport to your nearest emergency department for further evaluation and treatment.

Red-back Spiders

Red back spider bites can result in local symptoms much the same as other non-venomous spiders.  In some cases, pain can become progressively more severe, moving from the bite site into the rest of the body over a period of several hours.  Other symptoms can develop such as goosebumps, sweating and vomiting.  Without appropriate medical treatment, the severe pain can last for many days.  If you have been bitten by a Redback spider and you develop significant pain or these other symptoms, you should visit your local emergency department for assistance.  Pressure bandages are NOT recommended for Redback spider bites.

A Quick Note About White-Tailed Spiders

Previously it was though that white-tailed spiders could cause severe ulceration at the bite site, termed necrotic arachnidism.  The most recent large scale studies have shown that this does not occur.  White tailed spiders are considered non-venomous, although their bites can be painful and result in a red lump that resolves over a week or two.  If you are bitten by a white-tailed spider you DO NOT need to see a doctor unless there are signs of infection or you have severe pain which is not responding to basic pain-killers.

Other Spiders

Other spiders such as common small black house spiders, huntsman spiders and orb weaving spiders are not considered venomous.  However they can all inflict painful bites that can result in infection.  It is possible that some other large black spiders in remote areas, such as the Mouse spiders can be very venomous.  As a general rule, if you are bitten by any large black spider in Australia (even if it’s not in Sydney), you should apply pressure bandage immobilisation first-aid and seek urgent medical care at an emergency department.

All Bites Can Get Infected

A bit from any spider can potentially introduce bacteria into the skin and cause infection.  After a bite from any spider, you should was the area with soap and water and apply some form of antiseptic.  Over the following week you should monitor the bite-site and if there are signs of infection such as increasing pain, redness or discharge then you should see a doctor.

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