How to treat a spider bite

If this is an emergency, please call 000 immediately.

What is a spider bite?

In a medical emergency, call triple zero (000).

Some spider bites can cause serious illnesses and in rare cases be fatal.

Bites in the mouth or throat can be particularly dangerous as the swelling can block the airway. If you can, try and find out about any allergies as soon as possible so you are prepared for possible anaphylactic shock (a severe allergic reaction).

This guide is regularly updated and aligns with the current edition of Australian First Aid (4th edition, 7/2011)

Signs and Symptoms

General symptoms

 

  • Sharp pain at bite site
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain

 

Additional symptoms of a funnel-web or mouse spider bite

 

  • Copious secretion of saliva
  • Muscular twitching and breathing difficulty
  • Small hairs stand on end
  • Numbness around mouth
  • Copious tears
  • Disorientation
  • Fast pulse
  • Markedly increased blood pressure
  • Confusion leading to unconsciousness

 

Additional symptoms of a red-back spider bite

 

  • Intense local pain which increases and spreads
  • Small hairs stand on end
  • Patchy sweating
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness or spasms

 

Possible signs and symptoms of other spider bites:

 

  • Burning sensation
  • Swelling
  • Blistering

 

What to do

For funnel-web, redback or mouse spider bites

Follow DRSABCD.

 

 

Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

 

 

Lie the patient down and ask them to keep still. Reassure the patient.

 

If on a limb, apply an elasticised roller bandage (10–15 cm wide) over the bite site as soon as possible.

Apply a further elasticised roller bandage (10–15 cm wide), starting just above the fingers or toes and moving upwards on the bitten limb as far as can be reached.

  • Use clothing or other material if an elasticised roller bandage is not available.
  • Apply the bandage as firmly as possible to the limb. You should be unable to easily slide a finger between the bandage and the skin.

Immobilise the bandaged limb using splints.

 

 

Keep the patient lying down and completely still (immobilised).

 

 

Write down the time of the bite and when the bandage was applied. If possible, mark the location of the bite site (if known) on the skin with a pen, or photograph the site. Do not wash venom off the skin or clothes because it may assist identification.

 

Stay with the patient until medical aid arrives.

 

For other spider bites

Wash the injured site with soap and water.

 

 

Apply a cold pack to the bitten or stung area for 15 minutes and reapply if pain continues.

 

 

Seek medical attention if the patient develops severe symptoms.

 

Resources

Spider bites fact sheet

DRSABCD poster

Related advice

Snake bite

All known or suspected snake bites must be treated as potentially life-threatening, and medical aid should be sought urgently. Learn more with this fact guide.

Bat bites and scratches

Anyone who is either bitten or scratched by a bat should immediately wash the wound thoroughly and seek medical assistance, regardless of severity.

Bites and stings

Here’s a helpful guide for dealing with many different types of bites and stings – from snakes and spiders to jellyfish and bluebottles.

Courses that teach this skill

✮ Most Popular Course

Provide First Aid


For both those in workplaces and members of the public who would like a comprehensive first aid course.

1 day face-to-face, Assessment Only, and our 100% online options available.


✮ Popular Course

CPR


For those wanting to learn CPR, maintain their competence, or refresh their existing skills.

 
2 hour face-to-face plus pre-learning, Assessment Only and our 100% online course options available.

✮ Popular Course

Occupational First Aid


For those in high-risk work environments, high-risk remote locations, or undertaking high-risk work activities such as operating heavy machinery.
3.5 and 4.5 day face-to-face with
pre-learning, and our Assessment Only course options available.

Equipment used