Spider bites: All you need to know

Spiders play a vital role in nature, helping to preserve the ecological balance. Some people find spiders amazing animals and keep them as pets. In the wild, they can become pests when their populations get out of control.

Perhaps what aggravates the presence of spiders among us is that they often cause injuries that vary in severity according to the species. It is important that, if you have spiders around or as pets, you take the issue of bites seriously.

Pest control experts say that the secret to early action against spider bites is to learn about the most dangerous species and the symptoms of their attacks. If you want to know more about spider bites, read on.

Do spiders bite or sting?

Most of the arthropods that inhabit this planet bite or sting for feeding and subsistence, but this is not the case with spiders. These arachnids bite only to defend themselves and get out of any threatening situation.

Let us say, for example, that a spider attacks you the moment you touch it or unintentionally besiege it. Generally, many of the spiders you find walking around your house have teeth that are too small to penetrate human skin, so they will have a hard time biting you.

There are poisonous and non-poisonous spiders, and those that are, use these substances to kill their victims. However, the venom of many spiders is weak enough to have no effect on humans, causing damage like that of any insect.

Which spiders are common in the UK because of their bite?

There are many species of spider in the UK, but not many of them tend to bite. The spiders that do have this instinct are the cellar spider, the cochineal spider, and the false widow.

The bites of these spiders are characteristically very painful and cause some swelling that may last for a few hours. In the case of spider venoms that require medical attention, they have different toxin compositions.

It may surprise you, but in most parts of the world you will only find two spider bites that seriously affect health, namely those of the window and recluse spider. Despite the damage caused by the venom, it is not necessarily fatal.

Recluse or black widow spider venom is seldom fatal. However, there are spiders that are considered dangerous because their venom contains neurotoxins and has been shown to be lethal, such as the Australian funnel-web spider and the Brazilian wandering spider.

spider bite 2

What do spider bites look like?

Spider bites are not very different from insect bites in general. In fact, you probably do not even realise you have been bitten by a spider, even if you have the symptoms.

If you happen to see the spider that bit you, this is an unequivocal way of confirming that it was this animal that gave you this injury and not another insect. Otherwise, it is impossible to prove which bug caused the bite.

The rosettes of the bites are reddish, raised, itchy and swollen. This is the basic picture, provided you have not been bitten by a venomous spider, for which it is important to know how to interpret the physical signs.

Here is a list of some symptoms to look out for if you suspect you have been bitten by a spider:

  • Swelling
  • Skin damage
  • Itching
  • A red, lumpy mark
  • Muscle aches
  • Cramps
  • Headache
  • Mild to moderate sweating
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Who is most at risk from spider bites?

Anyone can encounter spiders and be bitten. However, certain people are at greater risk because their activities or workplaces bring them into contact with areas inhabited by spiders. Here are some of the people most at risk:

  • Workers who work outdoors (bricklayers, gardeners, and agricultural workers).
  • Children playing near piles of rocks and leaves.
  • People who walk long distances.
  • Doormen.
  • Operators of light and heavy machinery.

How to deal with spider bites?

In case you have been the victim of a spider bite, poisonous or not, follow the steps below:

  • Put an ice pack on the bite for about 10 minutes.
  • Elevate the site of the bite to reduce the swelling.
  • If you feel itchy, take an antihistamine, or apply an ointment based on iron and zinc oxides.
  • Clean the bite with soap and water, which helps to cool and prevent infection.
  • If an infection occurs and worsens, buy an antibiotic cream, and apply it to the area of the injury.
  • If you have been attacked by any of these spiders (black widow, tarantula, brown recluse, hobo spider or Brazilian wandering spider) go immediately to a medical centre for assistance.

Tips for preventing spider bites

While it is true that spider bites cannot be completely avoided, you can always prevent any uncomfortable situations with spiders. Here are some tips we recommend you follow:

  • Read up on the different types of spiders that live in your region, whether they are dangerous or not, and what their living habits are.
  • In case you want to clean or tidy up your garage, shed, basement, cellar, storage room or any other place that may harbour spiders, wear long-sleeved clothing, boots, gloves, and a hat first.
  • Douse your clothing with insect repellent.
  • If you have piles of rocks, leaves, or wood near your home, be sure to remove, store or dispose of them outside the vicinity of your home.
  • Don’t store things under your bed or other furniture.
  • Regularly broom or vacuum every nook and cranny and clean up any spider webs.
  • If you keep tarantulas as pets, always wear gloves, as well as eye and mouth protection when cleaning their terrarium.

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