What to Do if You’re Bitten by a Red Back Spider
Red back spiders are a common type of spider found in most parts of Australia. In most cases they prefer to dwell in dry populated areas such as garden beds, under roof eaves, sheds, toilets, shrubs, and junk piles.
Red back spiders don’t go out of their way to bite humans. But they can respond in aggression if their habitat is disturbed. For instance, if you accidentally place your hand into their web. Even then, a red back spider may not even bite you. Instead, they might try to escape, or fake death by curling up their legs and dropping to the ground.
Only the bite of a female red back spider is dangerous. The most common symptoms of red back spider bites include severe localised pain, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. Some people may also experience a loss of coordination and muscular weakness.
While not always fatal, red back spider bites can and have been the cause of deaths, with small children and pregnant women being at-most risk.
How to Identify a Red Back Spider
Female red back spiders are black or sometimes the colour brown. Their most distinctive feature is the red/orange stripe found on their upper abdomen, which either breaks up or forms an ‘hourglass’ shape once it reaches the lower abdomen. Typically they have a large body the size of a pea and long slender legs.
How do you know the difference between a female and male red back spider? Easy. Their red markings are less distinct. Their colour is often light brown, and they have patches of white markings on their upper abdomen.
As nocturnal creatures, female red back spiders spin their web at night, and they typically remain in the same place for most of their adult life. The web itself is made up of fine yet strong silk tangled up in an irregular fashion, but also carefully spun to form the shape of a ‘net’ in order to trap predators such as lizards, insects, and smaller spiders.
Symptoms of a Red Back Spider Bite
Bites from a red back spider are venomous. While most bites only result in serious illness they are capable of causing death.
Once bitten, a patient will experience intense localised pain, and the area will begin to swell and turn red after about 5 minutes. The patient may also experience general pain and swelling throughout the body. It’s also very common to become sweaty in the localised bite area and other parts of the body.
The good news is, anti-venom is readily available, and has been proven effective in the treatment of red back spider bites.
How to Treat
Follow these simple steps to provide relief:
- Remind the patient to stay calm. Encourage them to take slow and deep breaths.
- Apply an icepack to the bite area to reduce the pain and swelling. If an icepack is unavailable, use a bag of mixed frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel.
- Do not apply pressure to the bite area by wrapping a bandage or piece of clothing around it.
- Call 000 or visit the nearest emergency room. Once assessed, medical staff will supply anti-venom if the symptoms of the red back spider bite are severe.