Advice from an arachnophobe

Anyone who knows me well knows that if there’s one thing I hate, it’s spiders.  Can’t stand them.  And growing up in Sydney’s bush area, I have many horror stories of my past encounters with the eight-legged monsters.  I actually remember the days when we were encouraged to catch funnel webs in the garden, put them in a jar and take to the hospital where they would use the live spiders to develop anti-venom.  I wonder if maybe this is where my phobia came from, walking into the kitchen to see a black hairy spider sitting in a jar on the kitchen bench!

Thankfully, the funnel web is confined to the east coast of Australia so I don’t need to be fearful of coming across this particular spider in Adelaide.  However, we all need to remember that there are many other insects, reptiles and marine animals that may inflict painful, poisonous or even deadly bites or stings – even in South Australia.

For this reason, I think it is essential for everyone to keep up to date with first aid.  If you haven’t done a formal first aid course before, I strongly recommend you do this.  Many of these courses can now be completed in as little as a day and the knowledge you gain is extremely useful.

My main points or advice regarding bites or stings would be as follows:

Spider Bites

  • Thankfully, spider bites are rarely life threatening, however patients can become very sick.
  • For patients who have been bitten by a Redback, apply ice and seek medical attention.
  • Huntsman spider bites are not poisonous, but may leave people feeling quite nauseated and can be associated with a painful wound site.
  • White-tail spiders – often a painful bite, but rarely cause necrotising arachnidism (characterised by ulceration and skin loss).  Apply ice to the bite site.  If any skin changes occur (including extreme swelling, blistering or ulceration) seek medical advice.
  • For patients who have been bitten by another spider or in situations where the spider is not known, always apply a pressure immobilisation bandage and seek medical attention.  Where possible, it is advisable to try to catch or photograph the spider for identification.

Bees and Wasps

  • Patients who suffer from anaphylaxis should also be very wary about bee stings and in fact, they should be very vigilant about carrying an EpiPen with them at all times during summer months.
  • For those without a severe allergy, basic first aid (including ice, antihistamine and pain relief) should be adequate.

Above all, remember to seek medical attention if you are ever unsure… and be careful of where you step in the garden!

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