What It’s Really Like to Be Bitten by a Redback Spider

by BobinOz on May 4, 2010

in Australia's Bad Things

I think you know what’s coming. But before that, an important message.

I realise that some of you may have found this page because you have just been bitten by a Redback Spider and you want to know what to do. You are looking for urgent medical advice.

Here it is…

Redback Spider First Aid AdviseOn with the post. This is the story of when I was bitten, what it was like and why I didn’t go to hospital. I did seek medical advice though, speaking to a doctor and you will be able to read the advice I was given.

Finally, in the comments below you will find stories from many people who have been bitten by the redback and how it was for them.

The Australian Redback Spider

One of Australia’s most feared spiders is the Redback. Just before I moved here to Australia, one of my friends back in the UK who had lived and worked in Australia for a year at some point, told me that Redbacks were so strong and powerful that they could actually bite your foot through your thongs. (That’s flip-flops to us English).

Dave, you were talking twaddle!

But what is it really like to be bitten by a Redback Spider? The chances of finding out are quite remote, most sources quote around 2,000 Redback bites occur in Australia each year. So by my maths I would have a one in 10,000 chance of finding out.

Lucky, lucky me……… On Saturday, I found out!

So here’s what happened. On Saturday at around four o’clock in the afternoon, as the sun was getting cooler, I decided to do a bit of tidying up in the garden. It’s autumn here and a perfect time for trimming back the weeds and the overgrowth just ahead of winters dry weather.

By about a 5:45 PM I’d finished chopping off all the excess growths and I was picking up all of my trimmings in large bunches, carrying them up the driveway and throwing them all into one big pile. It was getting quite dark so I couldn’t really see much.

All of a sudden, whilst transporting one of these bunches I became aware of intense pain in the back of my wrist. The pain grew quite fast and although I have never hammered a nail into any part of my body, this was how I imagined it would feel.

As the pain grew even more, I decided to go in doors and take a look at it under the light. This is what I saw……

redback biteNothing!

Well, if anything, a very very tiny barely visible white mosquito bite like bump was all I could see. But the area around the pain was starting to look red and flushed.

Then it started to sweat, but just in that little circle where the pain was, nowhere else. I’ve never seen anything like it. I took a shower…….. that’s just something I like to do now and then…… and I washed off all the sweat at the same time. But out of the shower after having dried myself, I watched as the beads of sweat formed another circle around the back of my wrist again.

But by now the intense nail penetration like pain of before was fading, which was good news. But that pain was being replaced by a new, burning pain, which was bad news. But given the choice though, I preferred the burning.

Intrigued, I decided I would ask Google Australia what had bitten me, so I searched for “identify bite sweat” because for me, the localised sweating was the identifying factor. And that’s when I discovered that most of my search results led to the Redback Spider bite.

“Can’t be,” I thought “those things kill!” (Well, they haven’t since 1956.)

The more I read about the Redback bite, the more likely it seemed that it was a Redback that bit me.

  • Bites occur typically when the spider is disturbed in the garden or shed. (Tick)
  • The initial bite may not be felt. (Tick)
  • Puncture marks are not always visible. (Tick)
  • Local intense pain follows after about five minutes. (Tick, probably, I didn’t feel the bite remember.)
  • Localised sweating often occurs around the bite. (Tick)
  • May cause a burning sensation. (Tick)

By now it was around 6:30 PM and many of the websites I had visited advised anyone bitten to seek immediate medical attention. But I was feeling just fine and to be truthful, the pain subsided and was now really quite manageable. My only symptom was still the red flushing, some burning and the 2 inch circle of sweaty and very sticky skin.

But I had also read in my research that the Redback Spider’s venom was very slow acting and took a long time to find its way around your body. I didn’t like the idea of turning green and warty at midnight and thinking “Dang! I should have got some antivenom.” So I telephoned my doctor who was very helpful last time we had an emergency out of hours.

My Doctors Advice

He was out but his wife (also a doctor) answered the phone and she was very helpful. Here’s what she had to say….

Lots of people get bitten by Redback Spiders and for most it is not a problem. It is only a very small minority who suffer a reaction and if it is going to happen, it will happen within around three hours. So the next couple of hours are critical. If you suffer from palpitations, nausea, vomiting, headaches, difficulty breathing, abdominal pains or a fever any time before 9 PM, get yourself to a hospital. We don’t carry the antivenom here at our local surgery.

Take an antihistamine tablet if you have one, use an ice pack to ease the pain if you want to and drink plenty of water.

Well I didn’t take an antihistamine, I didn’t use an ice pack but I did take some of her advice about drinking plenty of water. When I say “some”, I took note of the “drink plenty” part and ignored the “of water”. I hit the beer fridge!

Well, that’s what happened when I got bitten by a Redback Spider. Was it a Redback? Well, just after I came off of the phone to the doctor, Beninoz and his family arrived. We were having a slap up a pizza together. Yum!

Before I told him anything of my research, I showed him the bite and asked him what he thought it was. “Redback” was his answer. The next day I spoke to Lisa, a born and bred Aussie who was bitten by a Redback when she was a little girl.

Did you get the burning? Did you get the intense pain? Was there no sign of an actual bite? Sounds like a Redback to me.” was her verdict.

Medical disclaimer!

I can never be 100% certain it was a Redback bite, but I would say I am 90% sure. For me, it was nowhere near as bad as I would have thought it would be. Getting bitten by a Redback Spider would have ranked really high on my list of things NOT to do. Now that it has happened, well, it wasn’t so bad.

Maybe I’m just lucky I’m not one of the minority who react badly, maybe my Redback was just a tiny little Redback, maybe my Redback got brushed off of my wrist before she had finished envenomation, or maybe my Redback wasn’t a Redback at all.

Either way, my experience wasn’t that bad. But according to my research, around 250 Redback Spider antivenom are administered each year here in Australia. So it sounds to me like over 10% of those bitten do react badly and will need medical attention, which is what many websites recommend that you seek. Which is, I suppose, what I did, having phoned my doctor.

So I am not going against the advice given in any other website, I’m just letting you know what happened to me. If it had been my daughter who was bitten, she’d have been straight off to hospital. But I will say that the Redback Spider bite, for some, may well not be anywhere near as bad as you thought it would be.

If you’ve been bitten by a Redback Spider, I’d love to hear if you think it was a Redback that bit me. What was your experience like? There’s no need to register, just enter your comment below.

Did anything else happen on Saturday? Yes, actually it did. And this event really should have ended in death. But I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

redback spider

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Update: December 2013

Redback Spider antivenom doesn’t work!

Yes, apparently it’s true. We had a comment from Jenn below (19th of December 2013) who had been bitten by a Redback Spider and despite being in some quite obvious trouble, the doctors treating her did not use antivenom.

They gave her steroids, antihistamines, she was put on a nebuliser and I believe also given adrenaline. But no antivenom. This surprised me so I did a little research, and found an article from just last month by ABC News.

That’s comforting, isn’t it? It will be interesting to see how this one develops.

Update: March 2014

Not so fast! Let’s get a second opinion on this from a doctor who has treated many envenomated patients over the years. See what he has to say in my post…

Update: May 2014

There was one more question I wished I had asked in the above-mentioned interview, but I forgot. It’s a question that has also been raised and answered in the comments below, but it would have been lovely to have got the opinion of an expert such as Professor Julian White.

Fortunately for me I got a second chance, and you can read the answer by visiting the following post…

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{ 289 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter S November 24, 2015 at 5:14 am

Sunday Nov 22nd, 11am – the day you go to the shed, put on your welding jacket to do a quick 2 minute repair. The jacket has leather sleeves and I wear leather gloves. I’d just finished the job and wondered “ouch”, how did welding sparks get through the leather gloves and leather sleeves. So I pulled the gear off and a huge redback fell out of my sleeve.
Within a minute I could see 2 little white marks on my wrist, a few mm apart with flare reaction around it, but really not much pain. I spoke to ‘nurse on call’ who said go to the hospital if I have vomiting or breathing difficulty. I placed an ice pack. The pain got steadily worse for about 6 hours. Sweating over the bite area, unremitting burning pain. Panadol and ibuprofen didn’t make any difference. I had some oxycodone (endone) left over from some surgery a month ago, and took a tablet at bed time – that helped a bit – enough to get 3 hours sleep.
All day yesterday (Nov 23rd) – slight reduction in pain, but still too painful to do anything useful. Still sweating over a 10cm diameter area over the bite site. Pain radiating from fingers and to shoulder, muscle spasms in the lower arm. Last night started getting a painful tingling sensation in both hands and both feet and ankles, and slightly swollen lymph nodes in groin, and less than 2 hours sleep. So about 40 hours after the bite, the really intense burning pain has gone, but there’s still a very painful ‘ache’ in my arm that panadol doesn’t touch.


BobinOz November 30, 2015 at 8:46 pm

That coins size sweat circle around the bite area is a real sign of the redback isn’t it? Along with the pain.

Anyway, I suppose the good news for you is that you didn’t get a bad reaction that required a visit to the hospital or antivenom, but the bad news is managing the pain. It’s been about a week now, hopefully you are well and truly over the worst of it.

So, are you feeling a bit better now?


Catriona November 21, 2015 at 4:58 pm

I was bitten this morning, still in localised pain this afternoon. Pain manageable as long as I keep ice pack on.
Pulled on pair of pants and felt a scratch/sting followed by another. First though was ant! Pulled pants down, out tumbled half squished spider, grabbed cup, scooped up, identified spider, called 000 being hme alone with my two kids.
Treatment by paramedics was ice pack and told if need pain management take Panadol. They told me there is no anti-venom!!
My choice whether to go I hospital or not. Chose to stay home and rest with ice pack. Some pain in groin but burning stinging pain continues in bite area, intensifying when I remove ice pack.


Sharon November 22, 2015 at 1:03 am

Hi Catriona. It must be the day for getting bitten by RedBacks. I was bitten around lunch and am still in serve pain. I suffer from Gillian Barra syndrome in my feet. A condition effecting nerves and causing me to have no feeling in my feet since 2008. I’ve stepped on glass and been bitten by things and never known other then the blood and obvious swelling and bite marks. Today I put my shoes on and started doing my lawn when I felt a pain in my foot. Strange since I don’t feel my feet. Didn’t see any problem so I put my shoe back on and continued with the lawn. The pain got worse so I took my shoe off again and as I looked at my foot a nasty redback walked out of my shoe. So finished mowing the lawn without that shoe and then started surfing the Internet for info. As I only felt pain in my foot I decided not to go to hospital either. After reading the above story I have taken the antihistamine and a lot of panadole. So far the ice pack and constant movement is the only thing easing the pain. The description of having a nail driven through my foot would be spot on and 14 hrs later it still feels like that. I am also feeling a numbing sensation in my thigh. I hope this pain goes away soon so I can get some sleep.


Catriona Daly November 23, 2015 at 11:22 am

wow must be intense pain if even with your condition you can feel it.
I read somewhere it can take 7 days for the pain to go. This is now day 3 and the stinging, burning pain is continuing, with the occasional feeling like a nail driven in. Sleep is still disturbed unfortunately.


BobinOz November 27, 2015 at 9:06 pm

No antivenom? Well, that’s clearly not true.

Hopefully both of you are feeling a bit better now, unless any of you have felt nauseous, dizzy or any of the other symptoms I mentioned in my article, then antivenom would not have been needed anyway. Apparently only a small minority need it and sometimes having the antivenom can cause problems in itself.

It’s probably been a week now for both of you, hope all is good. Cheers, Bob


Sharon November 28, 2015 at 8:58 am

Well 7 days ago I was bitten by a red back and am happy to report my foot has gone back to being numb. That was a very unpleasant week. But thankfully I only suffered from the localised pain in foot and a bit of numbing in my thigh. I did read that the antivenom was not nice and not always needed. I’ve gone back to not wearing shoes when I can get away with it and have also learnt not to leave my shoes outside anymore. All better now.


Catriona November 29, 2015 at 6:40 am

So 8 days later the site can glare up between itchiness and burning sensation that is caused by the site being hyper sensitive so the rubbing of bed sheets or clothes sets it off. So over it.


Sharon November 29, 2015 at 7:22 am

Hi Catriona. I found that happening to my foot as it was getting better. I found applying pressure with my thumb would ease the pain for a while but then I went to the chemist and got some Soov. It’s for insect bits and has an antiseptic in it. So it numbs the area for a good hour or two. If you keep applying it before it wears off it really help. I hope you feel better soon. I can’t imagine how sore you must be with full feeling. I guess I was lucky it bit my numb feet. Hope this helps.


Mariam November 5, 2015 at 11:56 am

Does anybody know where does the red back spider live because I’m always weeding in the garden and it’s know summer time


ian November 5, 2015 at 1:49 pm

They like to live under things like outdoor chairs and tables, pot rims etc., usually a few inches to a couple of feet off the ground. They need a good flow of air to bring in their prey, so if you ever see one inside, it’s probably lost.

They have a somewhat hard to see (very fine) web, which is a messy bunch of strands leading to the ground, but which are very strong if you push against them. Unless you actually put your fingers inside their lair, you would be unlikely to see them, but they do come out on warm nights and sit at the top of the strands of silk. If you brushed against it, you COULD get a bite, but mostly you need to accidentally squash them to get bitten.


BobinOz November 5, 2015 at 9:20 pm

I’ve been here for nearly 8 years now, I’ve never actually seen a redback spider. I’ve been bitten by one, but I didn’t see him. I might have seen one once, in my house when I first moved in, but I didn’t know enough about them at that time to know for sure. I probably thought every spider was a redback spider back then.

So I’m glad Ian answered, thanks Ian, as I have no idea where they are.


Peter October 8, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Put on a pair of sneakers while on the mobile phone ready to take my 2 year old son to beach the other day and felt a bite on my foot .Thinking it was an ant so I hang up and take my sneaker off and sure enough it was a red back comes out probably male being smaller and more brown but red stipe .Well change of plans all of a sudden I didn’t feel anything till 3 or 4 hours later and a pain on my top of my foot like it as being squeezed hard on and off lasting all night apparently but having taken afew panafol a seems to relieve the pain .its now slowly going away and feeling like the pain is almost now very minute .Slight sting now and then overall so far over 3 days that’s it so far hope it’s the end of it


Peter October 9, 2015 at 7:18 am

Ps 4th day and the is no pain at all except for a red dot mark on my foot where I was bitten.So overall I would say I was lucky I guess the pain was bearable that last on and off around my foot only for two days ,taken panadol helped so that it all over red rover .


BobinOz October 9, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Hi Peter, glad to hear your pain has subsided, sounds like you were lucky this time. As you can see from other comments here, some people go through horrendous and long-lasting pain.

Like yourself, I got away with it when I was bitten, but my understanding is it’s all down to how much venom these spiders pump into you when they bite, so next time one of us, or both of us, might not be so lucky. Cheers, Bob


Helen October 6, 2015 at 2:36 pm

Hi everyone. This happened on October 3rd. I had gone up to the chook house to grab a garden hose. While I was carrying it on my left arm I felt a little bit of a sting. I looked down and to my horror and shock there’s a red back on my wrist. I quickly brushed it off but too late it had bitten me. I dropped the hose a little later and went in search of my partner to tell him I had been bitten. He said we should go to the hospital and I said no. He rang the poisons info line and they suggested panadol for pain, (I wasn’t having any yet) and ice pack, see how it is after about an hour. If pain starts to get worse, go to the hospital. I was ok with that. We were fixing a leaky tap when the pain started to hit. About 45 mins after the initial bit, I said we should go to the hospital. So we got changed out of our dirty work clothes and off we went, me still with the ice pack on the bite site. I have a very high threshold for pain but when it started to get worse, I was getting a bit worried. By the time we got to the hospital I was in tears. While sitting in the waiting room the pain was getting worse and I could not stop the tears. I tried waving my arm around, shaking my arm anything to try and stop the pain that was starting to travel up my arm. The area around the bite site felt sweaty and just felt totally different to the rest of my arm. Eventually the doctor took me in to A & E but then almost straight away put me in to the observation ward. The pain was getting more intense. They prepared me with the emergency cart, (apparently there is a chance of a bad reaction from the antivenom), before giving me the antivenom. Then he wanted to have a neddle in, (well that really hurt because he missed the vein at first). I’m thinking just give me the antivenom please. Finally the antivenom was given then we were informed it can take up to 2 hours to take effect. Great! Morphine was injected every 5 minutes to help with the excrutiating pain. I think the morphine just made me relax but had absolutely no effect when a bout of really really bad pain hit me in my wrist. It felt like someone was grabbing the muscle in my arm putting it in a vice and tighening it till there was nothing left to turn. I have never felt pain like it. The nerve in my back is pinched in 2 places and I have to 2 protruding disc which really hurts but not like the pain I endured for almost 7 hrs after the bite. The pain was at a point where I wanted them to take my arm off to stop it. They had taxied more anti venom in from another hospital thinking I was going to need a second dose. The doctor had told my partner that I was having a extreme reaction to the bite.They wanted to keep me in overnight but I just wanted to go home and suffer in silence in my own bed. I was allowed to go after 7 hrs but then the vomiting started on the way home. It is now Tuesday 6th October and still have pain in my wrist and now and then up my arm. We had been told there could be general pain around my body…yep got that too. My ankles, behind my knees and a little in my shoulders.I’m hoping this will eventually go away really soon….like now would be great. The bite site still comes up as a little lump on my wrist, has like some sort of small rash and has been getting itchy. I hope I NEVER have to go through anything like that ever again in my lifetime. It was horrible, scary and excrutiatingly painful for me and my partner was very worried at the time and stayed by my side the whole time.


BobinOz October 6, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Wow Helen, that really is a bad reaction. Fortunately only a very small percentage have this kind of reaction, unfortunately for you, this is what has happened to you on this occasion.

That is not to say this will always happen to you whenever you get bitten by a redback, the medical expert I spoke to on this subject explains it all here…


I know what you’re saying about morphine as well, I was given it to ease the pain after a cruciate ligament operation and frankly it was useless. Anyway, I really hope your symptoms subside very soon and everything goes back to normal. Take care, Bob


Mick Oakes October 6, 2015 at 7:10 am

I got bitten by a red back 36 hours ago. Cleaning up the garage, not being careful (I’m from Canberra and there are heaps of red backs here) and I picked up a rag it had nested in. It bit me on the finger at it was like a nail or thick pin had gone into my finger to the bone. The pain was intense. I didn’t have any severe reactions so I just applied ice to my finger and alcohol to my brain.

The next day I felt woosy, like I’d taken an acid trip or something, today my stomach is doing dastardly things.

My finger still hurts, the puncture mark is minimal but damn that spider got me a good one.


BobinOz October 6, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Not pleasant is it Mick? The incredible thing with these tiny critters is that everybody seems to have a slightly different reaction to one of their bites. Luckily for you, you haven’t had any severe reactions as some have, so that’s a bonus.

Doctors, of course, will advise you to drink plenty of water, but like yourself I turned to alcohol. That’s the big advantage of not having had any medical training whatsoever :-)

Cheers, Bob


Peter October 2, 2015 at 7:44 pm

About 1988 i got bitten on the thigh by an unidentified Australian spider. I flicked it off rather hastily, but remember it was smallish and black, and have to this day assumed it to be a red back. The immediate symptoms were as described above, however, after those wore off i was left with a slight numbness or a tingling sensation in the front of the thigh, where the bite occured. Kind of like pins and needles. That sensation remained there for many years until one day a few years ago i noticed it had finally gone. However, just lately, caused by an unknown colescense of factors, the numbness has returned. For one thing ive been on a diet change and detox using green smoothies. It may be possible that toxins stored long term are being released. Another thing is after a period of more intensive hiking activity, some LCL ligament strain occured in the knee of that leg, and further investigation at the chiropractor revealed that i work that leg quite a bit harder than the other leg. The numbness may hence be a result of tighness in the quads as a result of the kness issue, but after lots of massage, and rolling the knots out, it just feels not really tight but numb. Or could it be that i work that leg harder because of the numbness? So i dont know… just found this page, looking for anyone else with long term numbness or tingling sensation.


BobinOz October 5, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Interesting, we’ve had many many different symptoms and reactions mentioned here in this thread, I don’t actually have a recall anyone saying tingling or numbness, but many people have spoken about symptoms returning after many years.

What’s happening to you could be related to that bite, but it’s really difficult to say. Hopefully you have subscribed to responses on this post, because sometimes it can take a very long time before somebody else sees your comment and it relates to their own experiences. So stay tuned, somebody, somewhere may be able to throw some light on what is happening to you.

Cheers, Bob


Trudy Stone September 29, 2015 at 7:25 pm

When I was little my Dad was bitten by a Redback Spider. My Dad at the time was a strong, sporty Aussie man. He was working on the Valiant car, during our annual Gold Coast holiday. The spider was not very visible, that is why my father was bitten. Eventually, he found the Redback, yet it was plain black. He was a big strapping man, he was in a lot of pain and did have to go to the hospital to get the antivenom. His description of the bite was like yours. Like a white sweaty blister or spot, with the redness and burning. Please go to the hospital if you or anyone you know is bitten. Apply an ice pack. Do not mess around please seek medical attention.ASAP. Trudy.


BobinOz September 29, 2015 at 11:31 pm

Sounds like your dad had a bad reaction to the bite, apparently that does happen sometimes. If the hospital decided to give him antivenom, then he was clearly in a bit of trouble.

For some bites though, these reactions don’t happen and it’s probably not necessary to go to the hospital, but if anyone gets bitten and does have any concerns or worries, then the hospital is the place to go be.

Thanks Trudy, Bob


Rachel Wilson August 10, 2015 at 9:23 pm

Hi, I just yesturday got bitten by I think a redback. Felt a tickle like a bug in me but as my hands were full I carried on thinking I, ll just put these down so I can flick whatever it is off. By the time I wiped it nonchalantly away I slowly became aware if a little pain but no biggie, after I carried on cleaning the house about 10 mins into bite and I’m reaching for pain killers thinking its a weird muscular pin stabbing pain getting worse in kind of throbs. By the time my partner came home and about45 mins after the bite I was aware it was now a bite of some sort and presumed it was a green ant but they normally only deliver quick hideous punch then nothing so was starting to worry. Because I also suffer liver cirohsis I was more concerned re the venom on my liver so went to a and e. on the way the pain became INSANE!!!!! I’m not kidding , I have broken limbs , had fractures, fallen off countless horses but nothing compares to the pain I was experiencing. I have a high pain thres
hold and it takes a lot for me to take anything but by the time we got to hospital I was screaming in agony ( very out of character). I think they gave me 5 lots of morphing but it wasn’t touching the pain just getting me very stoned but still in pain . The morphine tho seemed useless at the time I think calmed the body a tiny bit, enough to be able to get the strength for the next lot of throbbing and burning. Way into this nite mare at some point I was given anti venom which did nothing. But if offered it again under the same circumstances I’d still say yes because I suspect it may have slowed the pains rate of progression down. After that I was given a further 2 shots of morphine so , this happened at around 1 pm and I was given the antivenin at about 12midnite. I was transferred to another bigger hospital and there I think I was starting to kind of calm a bit tho still in enormous pain the throbbing had gone and I think the morphine kicked right in and put me to sleep for an ho
ur or so .they had put a cream with a numbing agent on the bite sight wich worked a bit so I think that helped too. It’s Sunday nite now and I’m still feeling hideous because of all the pain killers and because I’m still in a substantial amount of pain but nothing like it was. We all presumed it was a red back but I didn’t see it or did I have beads of sweat I don’t think as I didn’t even look at the site that well, just saw redness like yours. I think the doctors should di this when they get bite victim… 1. If in agony give the patient something to calm them and the muscles. ( I found muscle pain really hard to deal with on top of stabbing pain plus one is so histerical in agony to different degrees that being calm I believe would enormously help the pain. )
2. Maybe try antihistamines ( hospital strength ) before the morphine and or antivenin as I think Valium or the like, antihistamine , then if no good try the morphine and antivenin. It’s really quite frightening when you know you’ve had enough morphine to sink a ship and its barley touching the pain. Anyway I’m still a bit traumatised by it all and 24 hrs on and still can’t move my shoulder( bite site) without it throbbing a little and there’s still an ever present dull pain in the shoulder muscle. Hope that helps anyone else identify their bite.


BobinOz August 10, 2015 at 9:46 pm

Wow, sounds like you really have been suffering quite badly. As you can see, there have been a lot of comments here, from memory I think there’s only about two or three people who have had this kind of reaction.

In fact people’s reactions to redback spider bites vary enormously and if you look at the links at the bottom of my above post, you will see mention of a couple of interviews with Prof Julian White.

He is an expert in this sort of thing, and I asked him if some people are immune to their bite and if others are more disposed to a more severe reaction. You may want to read that article, he gave a very thorough and interesting answer.

You will probably see that it may well have been a good idea to put down what you carry on and flick that critter off. Too late now, but live and learn.

I truly hope you make a full recovery very soon, and you really do need to cut down on your morphine usage :-)

Cheers, Bob


Thomas Kent August 10, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Thanks Bob. These funnelwebs were rather sluggish and didn’t look aggressive. I wouldn’t advise an inexperienced person to try catching one – I am an extremely patient stalker. Be careful spraying them! Some sources say that sprays can make them more aggressive. When spraying spiders I always used the strongest spray I can get with a mixture of ingredients. I think ticks are more of a danger to be honest. The St Andrews is always listed as non-dangerous, but apparently some people can have an allergic reaction similar to a bee sting. Again, coming from NZ, I had even less experience with nasty biteys than your English readers, as there are practically no noxious insects or spiders in NZ at all and of course no snakes. I never found them worrisome. The spider that always worried me the most was the black house spider, not found in NZ when I was young. This is because they are common up north way and they like living in furniture, also of course up north people wear little clothing indoors.. But as I say, a bite from one caused me no huge problem although now that I recall, it was extremely painful for about three hours and still tender the next day.

In my experience, you don’t find cockroaches in cold environments and never in association with ants, the ants always displace the cockroaches. Coming from NZ, I had never seen a cockroach before I arrived in Sydney. In Auckland you can get big ant infestations. I have seen a few roaches in Melbourne in old wooden houses, but never at the plague levels you get in the older parts of Sydney, where you can find really big infestations.


BobinOz August 10, 2015 at 9:36 pm

Yes, we get black house spiders here in Brisbane, but I very rarely see them. That’s the beauty of professional pest control. In fact I very rarely see any spiders in my house at all these days.

I agree also that there are far fewer cockroaches in Victoria than there are in New South Wales or Queensland, but you will come across them from time to time. They really are one of the most unpleasant critters on the planet so it’s great to hear they get beaten up by ants on a regular basis :-)


Thomas Kent August 8, 2015 at 11:35 am

Ooh, in that first comment, the rot near my friend’s eye was 2 mm, not 2 cm! It healed up fine.


BobinOz August 8, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Thanks for clearing that up, 2 cm was rather scary. Easily done, I’ve got a video on YouTube about a water scorpion which I described as Australia’s biggest bug at 50 cm long.

Obviously I should have said 50 mm. Bit hard to change a video though, so I left it as is and it probably scares the pants off some people :-)


Thomas Kent August 8, 2015 at 11:33 am

Although I would very much echo Bob in telling my British friends to not worry at all about venomous animals in Australia, it so happens I have had encounters with redback and brown snakes and also with a number of poisonous spiders.

When I was living in Lindfield, Sydney, right next to Ku-Ring-Gai national park, we saw funnelwebs quite commonly. People reported them in their swimming pools (funnelwebs love water). Several times I caught funnelwebs in the basement and took them to the park after catching them under glass jars. I also saw a few redbacks, which I sprayed, as they live in webs and you can’t catch them.

When living in Bellingen, Central/Northern NSW (which is one of the wettest parts of Australia), a friend was bitten by a black house spider which was living in his couch. He was bitten near the eye. It caused necrosis near the eye – a piece of flesh about 2 cm in diameter rotted away and his eye was red and weeping for about a week. I also got a small bite from a black house spider, also in my couch, which caused a small local swelling only. The fang marks were quite clear.

There were two spiders that made me nervous – St Andrews Cross spiders in the old stables, and also a very small numerous transparent brown spider with a rather lactrodectus appearance living under the sink. I sprayed the latter.

I also got bitten by a spider that I have never seen anything on sites or in literature about. This was a rather large spider of very lactrodectus appearance. There was a colony of about half a dozen or more living in my shower which had high windows – in other words, they liked the light and the damp. They had a strandy kind of web. Their abdomens were maybe 1 cm in diameter, glossy black with no markings. I got bitten by one. It caused a large red lump about 1 cm across. This lasted maybe 2 days but I felt rather ill for maybe 4-5 days.

If you want to avoid the creepy-crawlies try colder states like Victoria, which still has nice beaches. And NO COCKROACHES!!!


BobinOz August 8, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Sounds like you have had quite a few run ins with our eight legged friends over the years Thomas, and you’ve got the scars to prove it. I am pleased to hear though that you haven’t resorted to stamping on these critters; despite your battles, you’re still happy to catch them in a jar where you can and relocate.

Not sure I’d feel that comfortable doing that sort of thing with a funnel-web. I think I’ve possibly only ever seen one of those in my house in my whole time here, that was in the first five weeks of my arrival and I took no chances, took him out of the game with spray.

The St Andrews Cross Spider isn’t too scary, I’ve just checked in my handy local critter Bible and it says its bite only causes mild local pain.

I’m not buying your ‘no cockroaches in Victoria’ theory though; they are there, no doubt about that :-)


ian October 10, 2015 at 7:04 pm

The shower spider could be a Brown Cupboard Spider, Steatoda grossa. Very few spiders in Oz have significant bites, and these are like a mild version of a Redback bite. Just one thing – in my experience they like it pitch black (maybe it’s dark in the corner with the lights out. Check out on Google Images and you will soon see.


Howard Dengate August 1, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Thanks for this extremely useful website about redback spider bites, better than anything official and far more useful. Can I ask your contributors if anyone has had their redback spider bite become encysted so that 11 months later they are still having symptoms? And what have they done about it?

I was bitten on the middle finger outermost joint 11 months ago and had the burning intense pain for a day or so, then a lump arose and over the next few months that finger’s nail became very distorted and irregular. Since then, whenever I get run down (eg after a long airline flight or after overwork) then I go through a cycle of severe headaches, malaise, fatigue that seems to run for 4-5 days and then go away. The site of the bite is raised, red and stinging again through this cycle. The recurrences seem to occur about once a month on average and are not going away as I hoped they might after nearly a year.

Coincidentally or not, I have had developed severe plantar fasciitis through this time and very sore Achilles tendons and heels at the attachment point. I have noted other reports of foot problems so this may also be related.

Any ideas for treatment would be appreciated.


BobinOz August 2, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Well, I had a touch of plantar fasciitis a couple of months ago, so I know how painful that can be. Nobody has specifically use the term ‘encysted’, but quite a few people have mentioned recurring problems that have been going on for more than a year. I know there are a lot of comments here, but if you check somewhere above you will find at least two or three people for whom a redback bite has created ongoing problems.

If you search this page for the word ‘feet’, it does get quite a few mentions, so foot pain has been reported before. Other than that, hopefully somebody else will see your comment and if they have had a similar experience as yours, I’m sure they will let you know.

Hope this all clears up soon for you, it’s not much fun when things like this go on and on. Cheers, Bob


Rani June 21, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Thanks Bob. I found this website particularly useful. I got bitten by a redback spider on the back of my hand yesterday while out in the garden. My symptoms were almost exactly the same as yours. After about two hours of increasing pain I rang Poisons Info (13 11 26 in Vic) and they suggested that it didn’t sound serious and that the best thing would be to mange the pain by taking panadol (I took Mersyndol) and applying an ice pack. More than 24 hours later the intense burning pain has subsided to a medium burning sensation and my wrist joint is particularly sore. I’m hoping that the pain completely subsides within the next day or so.


BobinOz June 23, 2015 at 1:03 am

Yes, that was about what happened to me, seems we have both been lucky judging by the stories of many others here. Let’s hope there’s not a next time, but if there is, I would certainly like to be as lucky again.

Cheers, Bob


Mark June 11, 2015 at 7:31 pm

That previous post was from first thing this morning. I called Healthline and they encouraged me to go to ED within 4 hours. I did so. They discharged me and said i probably needed pain relief greater than 30mg codeine though didn’t prescribe me anything more than Panadeine Forte. Given the pain and sweating had spread to my lower legs and feet I had obviously copped a pretty nasty dose of poison. Its now 72 hours since the bite and I’m not enjoying the pain and discomfort. Sadly there is little that can be done! Like most just have to ride it out!


BobinOz June 12, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Sounds like you have had a fair old dose of venom pumped in by that little critter, but if there’s anything positive you can take from this it is that at least you did not suffer a major reaction or anaphylactic shock. All you have to do now is wait for the pain to subside, I hope it goes away quickly :-)


Mark June 8, 2015 at 8:16 pm

Just bitten an hour ago on my hand. Massive red back came out of my jumper. Lots of aching pain up my arm and in lymph nodes. Feel a bit light headed and feelings of anxiety. Put ice pack on. Typing with left hand 😛


BobinOz June 9, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Feeling lightheaded and anxious = see the doctor or go to emergency in my book, but how did it work out for you? How are you feeling today? Hope you are making a full recovery.


Mark June 11, 2015 at 7:29 pm

Still here. Stinging/burning sensation still there around the bite. Also localised sweating which is just a weird feeling. Feeling really flat still and some throbbing up my arm. Im on a course and there is a Cardiologist and another Doctor on the same course so figure that if there was a major problem they would look after me. Its now just over 48 hours after initial bite so hoping tomorrow things will be on the up. If not might book into the Doc.


Lisa April 17, 2015 at 1:04 am

November 2007 i was bitten by a redback On the shoulderblade. Luckily i felt the sting flicked the little bugger saw it land and immediately caught it. The immediate reaction is more of a sting. Within 20 mins i felt enormous pressure around my chest, and a constricting in every one of my muscles, my heart was racing and the bite site was throbbing and sweating. Not knowing side effects husband madly googling as i spoke with nurse on call it was agreed off to the hospital with the spider in a jar still alive.
Taking a redback into emergency gets you a front row seat i found out. Ecg was performed and pain medication given. Antivenom was discussed but i felt like i could take the pain and ride it out. 6 hours later i was leaving the hospital. Sore but feeling better. Next morning i woke with sore feet. Walking was painful, my heels felt as though i were walking on the bones this lasted for more than 4 days. The sting site was red for weeks. And the racing heart still happened from time to time. For a girl who would be that one the mozzies loved to feast on at a bbq and bear the red welts all over her body, i will say from that day on i am someone who has no reaction and is no longer attractive to mosquitos So its a great repellant. It has been 8 years since then and i am now back on the hunt to chase down long term effects of a bite to a torso as my immune system has been attacking itself. Being forced to create a timeline of events to trace the immune problem signs. I had completely forgotten about the redback bite until this timeline was put together but it is seeming more significant being a year before any symptoms of immune problems. If anybody else has experienced a redback bite and suffers from autoimmune, systemic or connective tissue diseases and may have never thought to link them, i would love to hear about it. Most people and research seems to focus on limb bites, with little or no long term compromises to your system. I noticed when i read this blog that my reaction to the bite was different to a lot of people so it plays on my mind that a spider so venomous can not leave permanent damage if they hit near major organs or close to a spinal cord. If it turns mozzies off for years, it must alter your chemistry. What are your thoughts?


BobinOz April 17, 2015 at 3:18 am

Hi Lisa

We’ve had lots of people here tell us about their redback spider bites and the reactions they’ve had. Quite a few people have mentioned painful feet and from memory, I’m sure we have had one or two talk about long term effects, where they believe that years after the bite they are still having problems that they associate with the bite.

There are a lot of comments here, but it may be worth you scanning through them to try and find those cases, you may pick up some clues. If you find any comments that interest you, I’d be happy to try and contact the posters to see if they would be okay to talk to you direct to discuss it further.

As you say though, if it has stopped mozzies wanting your blood, it seems reasonable to assume your blood has changed. It’s then reasonable to wonder whether that has changed your immune system.

It may also be an idea to see if your doctor can refer you to a specialist, you may already be going down that track. I know Professor Julian White in Adelaide is one of the top guys in this field, I interviewed him, there’s a link to that in the above post.

Good luck, I hope you find answers. Bob


Andrew Smith April 16, 2015 at 10:18 pm

I think I may have been bitten by a red back this afternoon.
I had put on leather gloves to go and pull out Bathurst burrs.
At some stage I noticed a bit of a prickle. I just thought that one of the spikes had penetrated the glove and got me. But it got a bit more irritating over time. Then I realized that it was part that was well covered by leather and not likely to have been penetrated by a spike.
OK so I kept pulling out the weeds and slowly it turned to some serious pain.
That was about 5 hours ago and for perhaps 4 hours it just kept getting more and more painful.
But it seems to have turned the corner now and the pain is lessening somewhat.
It is only really affecting a fairly small area. Perhaps a cm in diameter or so. It does hurt a bit like someone pushing a hot nail into the joint.
There is no obvious signs of a puncture wound. And there is not a lot of swelling either.
But it is all quite red.
Not particularly sore under pressure. But it hurts just sitting still and the surface is sore to a light touch.
Of course it might be something else. But we do have redbacks living in the area where the gloves are stored. And there aren’t a lot of other spiders in that area either.
It seems that the redbacks chase the others away.
Anyway I was already going to see the doc in the morning so I will mention it if there is anything that seems to be getting worse by then.
Having accidentally grabbed snakes a couple of times, without being bitten, amongst other things, I suppose one’s luck has to run out some time.


BobinOz April 17, 2015 at 2:17 am

Yes, it may well have been a redback. If you had localised sticky sweating at the area that would be another sign, but a dead redback in your glove would be the clincher.

Whatever got you, sounds like you’re getting over it. You really should stop grabbing snakes though :-)


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