Redback spiders are among the most feared spiders in Australia, being one of the 2 types of spiders that have been responsible for spider bite-related deaths in the country. They’re commonly found in urban areas and inside homes, which is why it’s important to know the proper treatment for redback spider bite in case you or someone you know has been bitten.
What a Redback Spider Looks Like
Female redback spiders generally grow to 1 cm and can be black or brown, with a red or orange stripe going across the top of their abdomen. An hourglass-shaped red or orange marking can also be found underneath the female spider’s abdomen. Male redback spiders, on the other hand, grow to a modest 5mm and are usually light brown. Instead of red or orange markings, a white or yellow marking can be found on their abdomen.
Only the female spider is capable of harming people; the male’s fangs aren’t capable of penetrating human skin when they bite.
Are They Life-Threatening?
If you’re a healthy adult, being bitten by a redback spider will unlikely be lethal. A redback spider’s bite is only potentially fatal if the victim is pregnant, elderly, an infant, or has pre-existing medical conditions that make them susceptible to the venom.
It’s important to note that redback spiders don’t often wander from their webs, so you’re unlikely to be bitten unless you come into direct contact with the web or the female spider.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
The bite of a female redback spider is extremely venomous. These are the symptoms to watch out for if you think you’ve been bitten:
- Intense localised pain around the bite site
- Pain radiating from bite site to regional lymph nodes, the closest limbs, abdomen, back, or chest
- Sweating and swelling starting after 5 minutes of being bitten
- Headache, vomiting, and nausea after 1 hour of being bitten
- Profuse sweating is also common
- Pain lasting for several days
- Myalgia (muscle pain) and neck spasm may occur
Take note that with infants, you need to watch out for persistent and uncontrollable crying.
What to Do if You Suspect You’ve Been Bitten
If you think you or someone you know has been bitten by a redback spider, the following first aid is recommended:
- Do your best to stay calm.
- Gently apply a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area to manage the pain.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Watch out for signs of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
- Do NOT use tourniquets or restrictive bandages.
- Do NOT incise or excise the bite.
In some cases, it may be a good idea to take an antihistamine and a pain reliever.
If the casualty is a young child, infant, or pregnant woman, or if the person bitten has collapsed, they must be given emergency medical treatment. Take them to the hospital right away.
If you have an extreme reaction to the bite, try to secure a photo of the spider that bit you and seek medical attention. The doctor may recommend that you take an anti-venom.
Tips on How to Avoid Spider Bites
Spiders generally have no reason to bite people, mainly because they’re not bloodsuckers. They are, however, extremely common in urban areas and households.
Below are tips on how to avoid spider bites for you and your family:
- Turn the light on when reaching for items inside closets or small compartments.
- Shake out shoes and boots before putting your feet in them.
- Turn hats and gloves inside out before wearing them.
- Vacuum curtains weekly to remove spiders, webs, and eggs.
- Don’t store firewood indoors.
- Clean out your garden shed as often as possible.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and gloves when walking through wooded areas.
Redback spiders are generally reclusive and won’t go looking for trouble, but much like any other spider, they may get aggressive when you intrude on their personal space. They’re also extremely common in Australia, which is why it’s best to know what to do in case you or someone you know gets bitten.