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White tail spider bite awareness

March 1, 2018


Statement: Australian Reptile Park

Questions from the Western Advocate with answers by Australian Reptile Park head of spiders Kane Christensen.

Q – What are the signs and symptoms of a white tail spider bite?

A – Localised pain and swelling on the bite site in the majority of cases

Q – Can these signs and symptoms return following the initial bite? For how long?

Generally not. The largest study ever on white tail spider bites was conducted between 1999 and 2002, consisting of over 130 documented and confirmed white tail spider bites. The results from the study found that white tail spiders although often implicated in causing necrotising arachnidism or flesh eating ulcers were not to blame for this.

Q – What is the best treatment for this type of spider bite?

A – A white tail spider bite is generally fairly painful as they have robust fangs for penetrating the exoskeleton of other spiders, their favourite prey item. Because of the pain of the bite, an ice pack is usually used to numb the area and also reduce the swelling.

Q – Can there be misconceptions in the medical community about how best to treat someone following a white tail spider bite? What are they?

A – Following the largest definitive study of white tail spider bites, it is becoming more and more common for medical professionals to understand the relative unlikeliness of a spider bite developing ulcers that do not heal. It is suggested by the professionals in the area of treating spider bites that further diagnosis should be considered before concluding that it is a spider bite doing the damage.

Q – Can these signs and symptoms be confused with another common medial problem?

When the researchers were looking into white tail spider bites and people that had been diagnosed with white tail spider bites, they found a lot of previously confirmed “white tail spider bites” were actually bacterial infections, fungal infections, diabetic ulcers and even misdiagnosed skin cancer.

Mr Christensen said for more information to refer to a published study by Professor Geoffrey Isbister who is a toxicologist from Newcastle.

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