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Small nasty critters; what you need to know about Aussie spiders
No doubt, you've just read our other post on Australia's dangerous animals "The Big Bite: Aussie sharks and crocs" and are relieved to discover that it's more likely you'll be killed by lightning than die in the jaws of a great white shark. Phew!
But hang on, what about all the little critters - those sneaky spiders? It's much more likely that you'll encounter one or other of these on your Australian adventure, so it's important to put in context exactly what you're dealing with and how to stay safe.
Only two spiders, the funnel-web and the red-back, are currently considered dangerous in Australia. All spiders have venom glads, but only a few of the large species have fangs to actually puncture skin and cause a reaction.
There have been no deaths in Australia from a confirmed spider bite since 1979. However, approximately 2000 people are bitten each year by Redback Spiders (an effective anti-venom for Redback Spiders was introduced in 1956), and Funnel-web spider anti-venom has been given to at least 100 patients since 1980 when it was first developed. *
* Grateful to the Australian Museum for these statistics
How do I prevent spider bites?
- Always shake out your shoes before putting them on,
- Avoid leaving clothes or towels on the floor,
- Wear shoes when you're playing outside and also at night.
- Always wear gloves when gardening.
How to treat spider bites (non venomous)
It follows that the most important decision in managing a spiderbite is to decide if the spider is a possible Funnel Web Spider a Red Back Spider, or another type of spider. For most 'other' types of spider bites :
- Use an ice pack to lessen the pain and swelling.
- Paracetamol may help if you are in pain.
- Antihistamines could be useful if you are very itchy.
Bandaging is not necessary for Redback Spider bites. Applying pressure worsens the pain that often comes with Redback bites.
First aid for Funnel-web spider bites:
The main job of first-aid for a funnel-web spider bite is to prevent funnel-web venom from passing through to the lymphatic system and eventually into the bloodstream. The pressure/immobilisation technique (as for snake bite) does this by compressing surface tissues and reducing muscle movement, so greatly slowing the lymphatic flow.
- Apply a pressure bandage as tightly as for a sprained ankle, starting from the bitten area and binding the entire limb above the bite.
- Bind a rigid splint onto the limb to prevent limb movement.
- Keep the patient as calm and quiet as possible
- Seek medical attention immediately
- If possible, keep the spider for positive identification.
It's an emergency!
If you need emergency help or witness someone who does, the phone number to dial in Australia for emergency services (Ambulance, Police and Fire) is 000.
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