CPR First Aid

When is a Spider Bite an Emergency?

When is a Spider Bite an Emergency

When is a Spider Bite an Emergency? 

Many people fear spiders. These small creepy crawlies are capable of hiding in remote locations both in and outdoors. Whether it is in attics, basements, closets, garages, and woodpiles, people can stumble upon one by accident. When this happens, any movement can trigger them to attack. 

In addition, a spider bite may result in a myriad of mild to life-threatening symptoms, with the most serious being death. Out of over 40,000 arachnid species, only a handful are dangerous to humans. However, if you live in or are visiting Australia, where the most dangerous types of spiders reside, it’s best to be cautious of any and all bites. 

With that said, how would one know when a bite from a spider should be treated as an emergency? Here are several instances when you should seek emergency care if a spider bites you. 

Experiencing Spider Bites

Common Spider Bite Symptoms

Not all spider bites are created equally. Different species of spider can produce varying effects on many people. However, for the most part, the bite area from a common spider is much like those of other bug bites, mites, or even stings from insects.

Usually, bites from harmless spiders are just that – harmless. The site of the bite would normally turn red. It would also be a little inflamed, would have a manageable pain sensation, and have some itchiness. If you’ve experienced a bee sting (and aren’t allergic to it) then you know that these are they share symptoms from common harmless spiders. They even share symptoms with possible bacterial infections.

While some may find comfort here, one must remember that there more dangerous spiders out there that bring about severe symptoms. Let’s take a look at several spiders that do so.

Spider Bite Symptoms

Severe Spider Bite Symptoms

Black Widow Spider Bite

As the name suggests, a black widow is a shiny jet black spider. Also on its body is a red hourglass shape that makes it easy to identify. These are one of the more dangerous spiders that are typically found in Southern Europe, North and South America, Asia, and even Australia.

A bite from a black widow produces the same common spider bite symptoms. However, more serious ones can accompany it. These include:

  • Severe muscle cramps or abdominal pain that can be mistaken for appendicitis;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Uncontrollable shaking;
  • Profuse sweating.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite

The brown recluse spider are arachnids found around the globe. Their bodies could either be tan or brown, with their legs being very long and thin. The initial bite from this spider sees pain increasing for the first eight hours. A person will also typically experience chills and a fever.

The bite from the brown recluse spider holds little venom. However, one unique feature of its venom is that it can affect blood vessels, nerves, and tissues. This could result in the death of skin cells or necrosis. Apart from its aesthetic damage, it can be treated in time.

This venom becomes even more potent though if a person’s immune system is compromised. If bitten, severe symptoms manifest such as:

  • Fever,
  • A rash,
  • Vomiting,
  • And dizziness.

Any signs of these symptoms could indicate an allergic reaction which would warrant medical treatment.

Emergency Spider Bite Situations

If You Know the Spider is Venomous

As stated previously, there are only a handful of venomous spiders in Australia, with the most dangerous being the Sydney funnel web spider, the red back spider, and the white-tailed spider. It may be helpful to know certain characteristics of each.

Funnel Web

The funnel web can be black or brown in colour. Their bodies have a glossy sheen to them and their carapace is hard and covered with hair.

Another distinct characteristic of the funnel web is the web that they spin. As the name suggests, their webs are shaped like funnels and they hide within. When an insect goes to the entrance, they quickly come out and snatch them up.

If you encounter any of these funnel-like webs, it is best to steer clear.

These spiders are mostly found outdoors, especially in forests or gardens with a lot of shrubberies. They also tend to burrow holes and go under rocks or logs. In special cases, they also reside in trees.

Red Back

Similar to the previous spider, this one also has a black body that is shiny. The difference though is that on their back, they have a red mark that is shaped like an hourglass. The red mark is a clear and easy warning sign saying that you should stay away.

These spiders live in much closer proximity to humans. They can be found in various unsuspecting parts of a person’s home.

While closer, these spiders are a bit fearful of humans when they make first contact. They tend to either run away or play dead.


Finally, we have the white-tailed spider. Their body is very unique in terms of shape and colour. Variations in their colour range from grey to a dark red hue. Their bodies are shaped like long ovals and are supported by orange legs. As their name suggests, there is a hint of white behind them, looking like a tail.

Like the funnel web, this spider can be found outdoors. They can be found in gardens, under rocks and logs, and in leaf piles.

If you know you’ve been bitten by one of these spiders, it’s important to seek medical help immediately as their bites can be lethal.

If You Didn’t See the Spider At All

If you were bitten and didn’t see the spider that caused it, there’s a chance it may have been venomous. If you aren’t sure and choose to wait for any symptoms to show up, it may be too late. Go to the hospital or call for an ambulance right away to be on the safe side.

In truth, seeing and being able to describe the spider that bit you is important. It allows the doctor to treat you with the corresponding antivenom. However, even if you didn’t see it, it should not deter you from seeking medical assistance.

If You Are Allergic to Certain Venom

An allergic reaction to certain spider venom is one of the leading causes of debilitating and even fatal symptoms. One common spider is the tarantula which is typically found in the south desserts of America. Many people keep these as pets and their bites are not that serious. However, it all changes if a person is allergic to tarantula venom.

There are times when a person is allergic to the venom in the spider’s fangs. The resulting reaction is anaphylaxis, otherwise known as an allergic reaction. Anyone with an allergy knows that if they are exposed, it is a serious matter that can end fatally. Symptoms like a blister or difficulty breathing could rapidly make a turn for the worst if an allergy is present.

Unfortunately, there is no test to confirm if you are allergic to spider venom, let alone which spider. Watch out for certain reactions like swelling in the face, having trouble swallowing, and not being able to breathe. Furthermore, have some antihistamine stowed away for when you might need it.

If Symptoms Worsen

There are certain symptoms that, if they occur, you should get to the hospital immediately as it may be a matter of life or death

If the affected area starts to swell up significantly or if there is severe pain, it’s an emergency. If you see necrosis, which is the death of tissue, around the bite site, it may mean that the venom has started to spread and you will need immediate medical attention.

Other symptoms like headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, and muscle weakness warrant a trip to the hospital as well.

If You Just Aren’t Sure

At the end of the day, if you aren’t sure whether or not the bite is an emergency, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Go to the hospital or seek medical care just in case. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health and safety.

Tips to Avoid Bites From Spiders

There are some things you can do to avoid getting spider bites in the first place.


Be Aware Of Surroundings

For starters, be aware of your surroundings. If you are walking through a wooded area or garden, be wary of where you step and what you touch. Be careful when moving rocks or logs as there may be a spider hiding underneath.

The knowledge of which spiders are dangerous and where they can possibly be residing helps greatly in this regard.

Spider-Proof Your Home

In terms of preventing spiders from coming into your home, there are some things you can do there too. Keep your house clean and free of clutter as spiders like to hide in these places

Make sure to seal any cracks or holes on the outside of your home as these may be entry points for spiders. You can also keep them out by using a spider repellent around the perimeter of your home.

Wear Protective Clothing

When you are in an environment where there may be spiders, it’s a good idea to wear protective clothing. This includes long pants and sleeves as well as closed-toe shoes. If you are working in an area with a lot of vegetation, wear gloves.

Do Regular Checks

If you have been in an area where there may have been spiders, it’s a good idea to do a check of your body, clothes, and gear when you return. This is especially important if you are camping or hiking in an area known to have venomous spiders.

Bet on Being Bitten

Despite all these measures, there is still a chance you may get bitten by a spider. It’s important to know when a bite from a spider becomes an emergency so you can get the treatment you need. If you are ever in doubt, it’s always better to be safe and seek medical attention just to be sure.

Apart from knowing when a spider bite is an emergency, it is equally important to know the right first aid skills to help in these situations.

Learn all the relevant skills by taking CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course today.



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