White-tailed spiders are some of the most common insects in Australia and bites from it are not unknown. While not life-threatening, the bites may cause itchiness in the affected area and some ulceration.
What are the symptoms of a white-tailed spider bite?
Usually these spiders will aim for your arms and legs and so the bites will be found here. As with other types of bites, you may experience redness, swelling and itchiness around the site. Occasionally, ulceration or nausea and vomiting may occur. In rare cases there is a severe reaction which might lead to widespread skin loss, requiring operations. This is known as necrotising arachnidism.
How can I treat this spider's bite?
There's not very much you can do if you've been bitten. Seek advice from your doctor if you start to experience severe reactions such as vomiting or ulceration; otherwise, try to reduce the swelling by applying a cold compresses to the affected area. Should you be unfortunate enough to suffer from necrotising arachnidism, you should go to your doctor or nearest emergency admissions department. They will treat the condition with drugs, oxygen therapy or surgical skin grafts.
How do I know that it's a white-tailed spider that's bitten me?
These spiders are usually a grey-brown colour and about 2 cm in length, with a white area in the tail region. Usually they're found in dark places, such as under leaves and in bed clothes.
How can I avoid being bitten?
Particularly in summer when white-tailed spiders are more prevalent, be careful to shake out your bed clothes before jumping in. In addition, hang your clothes up in the wardrobe as these spiders are often found lurking in mounds of clothing that have been left on the floor. Dark, shady places are where they like to live.
If you're unsure of what to do, always consult a medical practitioner.
Article prepared by Jennie Meynell October 25, 2004.