While many spider bites result in local pain and swelling, there are few Australian spiders that can cause life threatening illness or death.
The Funnel web spider species are found throughout Australia, and while the Sydney Funnel web is the best known of these, several species can be found throughout Queensland. The Funnel web spider can cause life threatening reactions, including death. For all suspected funnel web bites call 000 for an ambulance, use the pressure-immobilisation technique, and have the patient taken immediately to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. Antivenom is available.
Redback spiders can cause a painful bite, however only about one in five patients will go on to develop whole body symptoms. Patients should see their doctor immediately if they are allergic to the red back spider venom, have heart disease or are pregnant. All other patients should follow general first aid for bites and stings.
If the patient shows whole body symptoms eg. sweating, muscle aches and pains, nausea or headache, is suffering severe pain (despite first aid measures), the patient should be taken immediately to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. Antivenom is available.
If the area looks infected or inflamed, the patient should see their local doctor.
Bites from several spiders including the white tailed spider, black house spider and wolf spider have been blamed for causing skin ulcers or necrotising arachnidism. However, recently published studies have not demonstrated any necrotic ulcers or lesions after known bites. The majority of bites from these spiders resulted only in mild redness, pain, and inflammation.
For more information go to the Australian Venom Research Unit's webpage on necrotising arachnidism.
For more information on spiders in general, visit the Queensland Museum spiders feature.
(All images courtesy of the Queensland Museum)