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It's probably safe to say that many people aren't the biggest fans of spiders. That's especially tough when you're in Australia or New Zealand, a region that has several dangerous types of spiders.

Don't worry, we're going to take a look at which spiders to avoid, what to do when bitten, and how to minimise the risk of getting on the bad side of Australia's poisonous arachnids.

Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

The different types of spider bites

While Australia has many types of spiders - some poisonous and many not - the different types of bites you could get from a spider can be grouped into three types:

  • Black venomous spiders: These include funnel-web spiders, mouse spiders, white-tailed spiders, katipō spiders and generally any large, black-looking spider.

    • Funnel-web spiders are generally considered the most dangerous spider in Australia and their bites can cause a severe reaction.

  • Redback spiders: These are easy to identify due to the distinct red patch on the abdomen.

    • Redback spider bites are dangerous and can cause severe and persistent pain, though it's generally not life-threatening due to the availability of anti-venom.

  • All other spiders: These include Huntsman spiders, trap door spiders, and the Garden Orb Weaver spider.

    • While these spiders can give nasty bites, they are generally harmless to humans.

Spider Treatment

Spiders to look out for in New Zealand are the katipō, redback and whitetail.

Who is at risk of spider bites and how to avoid getting bitten

People at greater risk of severe reactions to spider bites include babies, young children, the elderly, and people with an existing heart condition. Some may also be allergic to certain venoms and will experience an adverse reaction if bitten, including anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction).

As for ways to avoid getting bitten by a spider, tips include:

  • Always wear gloves, long trousers and shoes while gardening.

  • Wear shoes when walking around in the garden.

  • Inspect any suspected spider web or lair with a stick, not your hands.

  • Shake out your shoes before you put them on.

  • Don’t leave clothes on the floor. If you do, shake them out before you put them on.

  • Instruct children not to touch spiders.

  • Don’t assume that a spider at the bottom of a swimming pool is dead. Some spiders can survive on an air bubble for 24 hours or more.

It's important to understand that spiders will not go out of their way to bite you. Spiders typically feed on small insects and invertebrates (such as flies and mosquitoes), and they tend to run away when humans are near. Only when spiders are surprised or threatened will they bite you in order to defend themselves.

Symptoms of spider bites

Typical signs and symptoms of a spider bite include:

  • Pain

  • Sweating

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Muscular twitching and spasms

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Unconsciousness.

For bites from funnel-web, redback or mouse spider bites, additional symptoms include:

  • Intense local pain

  • Excessive saliva and tears

  • Muscle twitching

  • Tingling or numbness around the mouth

  • Small hairs stand on end

  • Fast pulse and high blood pressure.

What to do when bitten

For funnel-web spider bites or any other black venomous spider bite:

  1. Treat it as a medical emergency and call an ambulance immediately - 000 in Australia or 111 in New Zealand.

  2. Lie the person down, reassure them, and get them to keep still.

  3. Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage. Instructions on how to do that can be found here.

  4. Immobilise the bandaged limb using splints.

  5. Wait for medical assistance to arrive.

For Red Back spider bites:

  1. Wash the area and keep it clean.

  2. Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 in Australia or 0800 POISON in New Zealand..

  3. If symptoms are severe, go to the nearest hospital - Generally, it is usually not necessary to call an ambulance.

  4. Do NOT apply a pressure immobilisation bandage.

For other spider bites:

  1. Wash the bitten area thoroughly with soap and water.

  2. Apply a cold pack to the bitten area for 15 minutes, or longer if the pain continues.

  3. Seek medical attention if the person develops severe symptoms.

If possible, try to catch the spider using a container and take it with you to the hospital so the medical staff can identify the spider and administer the correct treatment. Here's how to safely catch a spider using a container:

  1. Get an empty container with a secure lid, like a jar.

  2. Place the container over the spider.

  3. Slide a piece of stiff cardboard beneath the container to seal it.

  4. Hold the cardboard securely and turn the container upside down. The spider should drop to the bottom of the container.

  5. Remove the cardboard and attach the container lid.

If catching the spider isn't possible, try to take a photo of it.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Image credit: Spider-man

All content in Sonder's Help Centre is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

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