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

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…

Update: February 2018

I’m sure my doctors advice was pretty accurate for most cases, but it seems there are always exceptions to the general rules. If you look at a comment made below by John Cliff, February 23, 2018, 9:53 pm, he suffered a scary reaction to his Redback bite more than 24 hours after the event. So, in his case, the reaction didn’t happen “within around three hours“.

Fortunately for John, antivenin from the hospital saved the day.

Visa Assessment Service

 

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{ 448 comments… add one }
  • Margaret Kelly October 5, 2019, 2:11 pm | Link

    I received a red back bite after putting a shoe on, right away I realized I had been bitten by something. Half an hour later by toe was burning and I was clammy, feeling sick and then two hours after the original bite the clamminess went and the tightness of chest round the heart started with pain up by the leg to my lower back and then down to the other leg. Time to go to the hospital so thank goodness the ED took note of the chest pains and I was admitted. The toxicology doctor I spoke to decide not to go for antivenom and I was put on pain killers, all sorts of them in fact in all my 70 years I have never consumed as many pills as I had in the next 14 hours unfortunately that and fentanyl infusion did not work so the next ED doctor suggested the anti venom for spiders which does or does not work, thank goodness it worked on me and within about 2 – 3 hours I had very little pain left. Thank goodness for a second opinion. Now the day after I am left with a small amount of itching but OK.

    • BobinOz October 8, 2019, 4:55 pm | Link

      Crikey, sounds like you’ve been through quite an experience over this. I am aware that doctors are often reluctant to administer the antivenom because, as I understand it, it can have adverse effects sometimes.

      Glad to hear it did work for you without any problems, otherwise you could have been in for an uncomfortable time for much longer.

      Hopefully that small amount of itching will disappear quickly as well. Quite a few people have said they were bitten putting shoes on, even so, I suspect it would be a bit overkill to check them every time before putting them on.

      Or would it? 🙂

  • Tara Williams August 3, 2019, 12:24 am | Link

    My red back encounter was about 4 years ago now. As most I was in the garden pulling out weeds and reached behind a big pot that I leaned my arm on to get some leverage, well that was my mistake, I thought I felt a scratch but nothing was on my arm. I kept pulling out weeds then a few minutes later the pain just came out of nowhere near that same scratch site. I put my head around the pot and one of the biggest, fattest red backs was staring back at me…oh so it wasn’t a scratch! I had completed first aid courses and knew ice was recommended so I pushed passed hubby straight inside and grabbed some frozen peas and googled just to be on the safe side. Pain was subsiding or numbing with the peas so I went back outside asked hubby to check the pot, he came up and said “that’s the biggest redback I’ve seen you’d hate to be bitten by that”! I held up my arm with the peas and his face dropped he started trying to find his phone to ring 000 once I calmed him down I went inside to rest. I also noticed the sticky sweat droplets where I’d been bitten. I had rung the medical hotline they said unless I get sick or pain radiates don’t worry. I was good for an hour or so but then my upper arm and shoulder started really hurting and I felt nauseous. The Hospital was a 2 minute drive away we headed straight up. I was seen straight away and the Dr knew straight away from the sweat bubbles around the site it was a redback but still loved the picture 😆 he said they hardly give out antivenom as it can make you a lot sicker than the bite and send you into anaphylaxis. He wanted to monitor me for a few hours but since I lived so close he allowed me to go home with some pain killers but not before showing all the dr and nurses what a redback bite looked like. I had 2 days off work as the pain was continuing to run up to my shoulder and the actual bite site was a little sore and itchy for a good few months. We have moved now and gone from red backs to funnel webs! Now that’s one I don’t ever want to be bitten by!

    • BobinOz August 5, 2019, 6:33 pm | Link

      Yes, I have also heard that there is a great deal of reluctance in applying the antivenin for redback spider bites, because as you say, it can in itself cause problems. For that reason doctors only use it for severe cases, I suspect you would need to be having a really bad reaction to the bite before it would be considered.

      Fortunately, for most people, you included, pain management is all that is needed. Not a nice experience though, but I suspect a walk in the park compared to what might happen if you were to be bitten by a funnel-web.

      Sounds like you’ve moved to the Sydney area, probably, so be careful with those big pots in the garden 🙂

      Glad to hear you survived your redback experience.

  • Cath April 19, 2019, 11:01 am | Link

    I like you was bitten but had no puncture marks but a red extremely itchy area on my calf that felt like a green ant bite or maybe a wasp but it didnt swell like a wasp bite does. Theres a lot of redback webs around where I sit on an outside chair although I didnt see the spider I know theyre around. omg the itch! Yet nothing showing of a bite mark. The stinging heat in that area around the size of a 50c coin was torment, I scratched & scratched from the itch & then it would throb & ache. I felt sick in the gut, wanting to vomit but didnt. All night in bed the itch & stinging didnt stop hence me believing it must of been a red back after I looked up symptoms, came across your blog & what you described is the same experience as Ive had. How long will the symptoms last? Its driving me mad this painful itch. Ive used stingoes on it yet its still itchy & painful to touch. Thanks for your page about this 🙂
    Cath

    • BobinOz April 23, 2019, 6:49 pm | Link

      Yes, it’s true, I did have a red area around the size of a coin, and it felt sticky to touch, but never itchy. My bite never itched at all, but I did get a burning sensation and an intense nail penetration like pain.

      So I’m not sure your bite has come from a redback spider, I think it could have been something else, but I don’t know what. That’s only my guess, for what it’s worth.

      If it’s itching, you could try an antihistamine cream or a tablet, that might help. I hope that pain goes away soon.

  • Janette April 8, 2019, 2:41 pm | Link

    Late afternoon Friday went to do garden slipped my feet into my gardening shoes spent 2 hrs in garden then an hour later big toe stared burning thought it had been rubbed by shoe but pain got worse by 20 pm I went to my shoe to check and it it was the red back spider so knew the reason . By then my groin was aching so bottled the culprit and went to emergency where they spent 4 hrs trying to get painkillers right which they did by 2am I went home and things were ok till now Monday and I’ve been sweating all day not easing at all . Pain at beginning was 10 out of 10 . I have had shingles and this was equally as bad . My own fault for not checking the shoe but didn’t feel the sting . Got GZp appointment tomorrow

    • BobinOz April 9, 2019, 6:28 pm | Link

      10 out of 10 sounds pretty painful, I hope you make a full recovery very soon. At least, by the sound of it, you didn’t need antivenin. For what it’s worth, I didn’t feel anything either when I got bitten, I think sometimes that bit can be painless. Then the trouble starts.

      Hope it all goes (or went) well with your GP.

  • Andrea March 29, 2019, 3:46 am | Link

    Hi, for those of you who were not in excruciating pain from a red back spider bite, consider yourselves lucky!
    I was bitten this week in Queensland, and the spider was in my bed! God knows how it got there, I had washed my sheets and covers that day, it may have snagged itself coming off the line or in the grass…but pest control is coming to do the cabin just in case there is a nest around there.
    Not taking any more chances!
    I was woken at two am from a terrible dream with a pain in my right thigh…firstly I assumed it was a sciatic nerve pain of some kind.
    I rubbed some Zen heat massage oil on it, but soon realised that it must be something else.
    I flipped back the covers and there it was, a female red back spider, in all her glory.
    “Oh great,” I groaned. My brother had been bitten when he was two, and I was four, in the sandpit and it had meant an emergency trip to hospital.
    I scooped the spider into a container, got dressed and took it over to my parents house.
    We decided to wait and see, before driving to the hospital, as being an adult was in my favour. The case of course for pregnant women and children, is way more dangerous and requires immediate medical attention.
    I went to the doctor in the morning, as the pain had really started to kick in. The doctor didn’t really know much about spiders, surprising for a rural doctor, but prescribed antibiotics in case of infection and panadeine forte.
    “I had a bad reaction from codeine cold and flu tablets once,” I told her with concern. I had never taken them since.
    She scoffed and said that these would be fine to take, and that really, there were no other options for the pain, which had by then become increasingly more intense.
    Lesson 1: Always trust your instincts.
    Against my better judgment, I went to the chemist and took two tablets to ease the searing pain.
    Within an hour my hands, feet and eyelids began to swell, I had cold sweats and was shivering and anxious.
    The effects of this lasted for a day or so, with my Mum keeping vigil by my bedside in case of an emergency trip to the hospital half an hour away. It was all I could do to stay warm and ease the bite pain, constantly taking hot baths to keep away the chills.
    Luckily, my parents had recently had enough rainfall to fill the rainwater tanks.
    Four days later, the bite pain is easing and my severe codeine reaction is disappearing.
    It has made me want to never take any pharmaceutical drugs ever again.
    I have a rock hard lump where the spider bit me, but the pain is now easing.
    The codeine reaction overshadowed the spider bite in the end, but I feel for anyone who is bitten, and I advise them to listen to their gut and to their bodies when something happens.
    In hindsight, I should have gone straight to the hospital, when it happened rather than wait and go to the doctor, and will remember this for future reference.
    Doctors and drugs have their place, but only we know how our bodies respond and react to what we put in them.
    Thanks for letting me share.
    Best wishes from Andrea

    • BobinOz April 1, 2019, 3:58 pm | Link

      Sounds like you have been through a pretty nasty experience Andrea, and mostly because of those codeine tablets. I don’t suspect you will be taking those again in a hurry. Without those tablets I think you might just have got away with it, even though you were in some pain.

      I found a list of possible side-effects for codeine online, it’s enough to scare the pants off of anyone…

      https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-7420/codeine-sulfate-oral/details/list-sideeffects

      Included in the list is ‘life-threatening allergic reaction’, which is probably about the worst a redback spider can do to you. When you look at everything else on the list, codeine certainly looks scarier than the spider itself.

      Thanks for sharing and hope you make a full recovery soon. Cheers, Bob

  • Reece March 18, 2019, 10:28 pm | Link

    I got bitten 3 days ago. I know for certainty it was a redback as I saw the little bugga on my shirt sleeve. I initially thought I escaped the bite as I didnt feel anything. It was only 10 minutes later that I noticed 3 little lumps appear centred around tiny little puncture like holes. What followed was an increasing red discolouration about the size of a golf ball followed by a minor ache around the bite area. The red discolouration has since abated somewhat yet sweating around this small area continues, along with numbness in the aformentioned golf ball size area.

    • BobinOz March 19, 2019, 8:10 pm | Link

      Yes, sounds like a typical redback bite, well, for those of us who have been lucky. Some people who have commented on here have had a much more painful and longer lasting bite experience.

      Like me though, it sounds as though your pain was quite minor, you didn’t have any reaction and the pain went away quite quickly.

      Hopefully the sweating has gone by now, Cheers, Bob

      • Reece March 19, 2019, 9:16 pm | Link

        The sweating is still there but it certainly feels ok… Touchwood!

        • BobinOz March 20, 2019, 8:27 pm | Link

          Ha ha, your comment reminded me that earlier in the day I picked up a splinter from a wooden fence, so I went straight to the pin draw and got out. Seriously true.

          So thanks for that, and I do hope your improvements continue.

  • Vince Dove March 9, 2019, 7:00 am | Link

    Got bitten a week ago, exact same symptoms. Itching like crazy at the moment, Ive had to have repeat prescriptions of beer.

    • BobinOz March 11, 2019, 5:48 pm | Link

      I do like the sound of your doctor, mine never gives me scripts for grog 🙂 I hope the treatment works, eventually…..

  • Richard February 27, 2019, 4:51 pm | Link

    I might have been bitten by a red back spider on the foot. A few weeks ago I began experiencing pain on the top of my foot which caused me to slow down my running training – I am a Park Run fan. The pain was not too bad so I decide to run through the pain for a week or two – it may go away. Applied heat gels for pain relief but no improvement. I do have problematic feet not well suited to running so thought I had done yet another injury. Finally decided to pay the doctor a visit – had an xray that showed no breakage. While massaging the foot I located the source of the pain, a small spot and noticed a slight discoloration of the skin with two small puncture marks. Was this a red back spider bite? If so, this might explain why all the treatments including heat gel, anti-inflammatory gel, rest, activity, massage, even ice bath later, haven’t helped. My worry is that the poison has damaged the tissues, muscles etc resulting in longer term damage. Then again, I may not have been bitten by a red back spider after all.

    • BobinOz February 27, 2019, 7:23 pm | Link

      Well, it doesn’t sound like a redback bite to me, there were no visible signs of any puncture marks when I was bitten. Most people, including myself, have mentioned a round sticky red patch the size of a 20 cent coin as the only evidence at the bite site.

      Two small puncture marks sounds as though it is more likely to have been a snake bite.

      Being as a few weeks have passed, I don’t think whatever bit you is going to cause you too many problems going forward, if you were going to have a serious reaction, you would have had it by now.

      Remember also that sometimes snakebites can be ‘dry’, with no venom injected. Hopefully your foot will be back to normal very soon.

  • Stuart Robinson January 18, 2019, 2:01 pm | Link

    Stu in Forster. 13:30pm 18/01/2019
    Just cleaned up around my caravan. Was hosing off around varios bits and pieces when i felt a little sting on the top of my foot, it was one of them gut feelings you get when you know what it was before looking down. Yep there it was looking smug with itself sitting atop my foot, that is until i hosed the bugger off and stomped on it. Aching a little atop the foot and a little in the groin. Not overly concerned at this point, however will drink plenty of beer to be sure.

    • BobinOz January 21, 2019, 8:22 pm | Link

      No, no, not beer, water! Drink water!

      Mind you, I made the same mistake myself, easily done, and I’m still here to tell the tale. Hope you haven’t been through too much pain and that it all subsides really quickly.

      Cheers…

  • Jeremy January 12, 2019, 11:28 pm | Link

    Got my bite today, around 10:30am. The little dude was hanging off me, then climbed back up and then I tossed it off, saw it running for its life…but I took care of it …with my thong. Only thing I experienced was slight redness and a burning pain. Pain is maybe 2/10. It’s annoying as the house was sprayed the day before of all insects and spiders etc..they must be out running from their homes. Damn.

    • BobinOz January 14, 2019, 5:16 pm | Link

      Same sort of thing happened when I was bitten as well, my bite wasn’t very painful at all and I was pain-free very quickly. We were both lucky though Jeremy, many others who have reported their bites here have had some quite horrific stories to tell.

      I think having your house sprayed does bring out all the critters as they choke and splutter for fresh air, but they normally don’t last more than 24 hours.

  • Kerrianne Sheridan December 9, 2018, 11:09 am | Link

    I was bitten on my toe once when staying at a country motel. It found its way into my shoe overnight and when I put my shoes on I felt an intense sting. I went to work and ignored the pain. By the end of the day my toe was swollen and sweating. Day two I was overcome with heavy flu symptoms and then the flesh on my toe began to break down. It became gooey and quite hideous. A few days later my toe nail died and fell off and the toe beside the bitten one became completely numb. Years later I still don’t have full feeling back in that toe and wonder what it was that bit me. My toe nail grew back but is full of ridging.

    • BobinOz December 11, 2018, 8:49 pm | Link

      From what you say, it doesn’t really sound like a redback spider. When I was bitten, I didn’t really feel the bite, the pain started to build afterwards. I also didn’t get any swelling at all or any breakdown or flesh.

      I did get the sweating though, but to me, it doesn’t sound like a redback bite. I would think it is some kind of spider though, but which one, I don’t know. If anybody reading this does have any kind of idea, we’d love to hear from you.

      What is incredible though Kerrianne, is just how much long lasting pain one small critter can inflict with just a tiny bite. I do hope that pain goes away completely at some point.

  • Craig September 11, 2018, 6:22 pm | Link

    Your symptoms were very similar to mine, except that I had no pain after the initial very minor sting of the bites. Yes, plural, as in more than one. Probably at least a dozen, perhaps two, in fact! It was around dusk on an early summer evening and I was sitting outside, on one of those cheap plastic garden chairs, chatting and having a few coldies with some friends. I had my feet pushed back under the seat and the backs of my knees were hard up against the underside of the front edge of the seat.

    Throughout the night I felt repeated small bites on the back of my knee and the top of my calf, from what I thought were mosquitoes. I slapped at and scratched at the affected area throughout the night and didn’t give much thought to it until I went inside for a shower and noticed the sweaty white spot in the middle of a big red patch on the back of my calf. I went back outside, turned the chair over and found, right where my leg had been, a pretty extensive web inhabited by a large female Redback and possibly several hundred spiderlings in various stages of maturity.

    I called the local hospital to find out what I should do about it and their advice was, if I had people around me (which I did), to have them keep an eye on me for a few hours. If there were no significant ill-effects, apart from a bit of localised pain, in that time they suggested that there would probably be none at all but, if I had any concerns, to get straight to the Emergency Dept. They were quite right and, in fact, I didn’t even get the pain.

    The only noticeable effect of multiple Redback bites was that I had what turned out to be the best, most refreshing night’s sleep I can remember ever having! The slight swelling and redness went away after a couple of days without incident.

    Redbacks can of course be VERY dangerous to small children and to those few adults who are especially sensitive to the venom but, for the most part, they’re not nearly as big a deal as they’re made out to be.

    • BobinOz September 11, 2018, 7:24 pm | Link

      There you go, the redback spider bite can be used as a sleep aid; for some reason though, I just don’t think that will catch on 🙂

      Like myself, which I think we can both be grateful for, nothing much happened after you got bitten. One of the links towards the bottom of the article above is about whether some people can be immune to the bite, and I interviewed Professor Julian White, an expert in this field, for the answer.

      In short, it’s no, but what does make a difference, and this was the first one he mentioned, is the size of the spider and its sex. Maybe you got those multiple bites from the baby redbacks and nothing from the mother?

      Other variations, according to the professor, are how much venom was injected, had the spider used up some of his venom reserves on other things that day, and how large/old/healthy was the patient.

      I reckon both you and I had a lot of those factors in our favour when we were bitten.

      Maybe drinking coldies is the best treatment, we both did that, but until hospitals start installing beer fridges in favour of antivenin, I think that’s a long shot.

      Glad to hear you were unharmed though and thanks for posting your story, Bob

  • Aleisha August 22, 2018, 8:13 pm | Link

    My little 9year old daughter got bit by a red back spider on Friday afternoon, we knew exactly what it was as she seen it and I was there straight after she got a fright as she had a spider on her foot, I would say her pain at the start was not much eg. green ant bite. So I got the ice and put that on the foot. Couldn’t see 2 prong marks or any bite mark.
    Within the next 5-10 minuets the pain shot up her leg, so I took her straight up to hospital. The hospital kept an eye on her for 3 hours, the pain only went up her legs to her groind, if it went in her stomach or she started vomiting they were ready to do the anti venom. The lymph nodes were swollen and inflamed. They only gave panadol and nurofen and the ice kept the pain at ease.
    She was ok at the 3rd hour and we went home. The pain the next day was horrible, she couldn’t walk her legs were numb, her sweats were terrible she would wake up soaking wet, she was very tired, she got hot cold shivers, looked pale. The sweats were only from hips down. This went on for 4 days. It’s day 5 and the spider bite swells up while she walks on it and then she puts it up and ices it and is ok for a while. How long will this last.
    It would be good if photos could be added.

    • BobinOz August 23, 2018, 9:09 pm | Link

      Sounds awful any it must be horrible to see your little girl suffer like this.

      Difficult to say how long it will last, we’ve had so many stories here from people who have been bitten and every one seems to be a little bit different. Lots of people have mentioned the pain returning repeatedly, but I think, from memory, most people say it’s gone after a couple of weeks.

      Unfortunately for some though, it has lasted longer than that, hopefully that won’t happen to your daughter.

      Sorry you are able to upload photos, but if you want to send them to me by email, which you can get from my Contact page, I can upload them into the comments this end.

      Hope your daughter gets better soon, Bob

  • Patricia Dennis July 3, 2018, 4:56 pm | Link

    This morning I was in the garden and felt something sting or bite my thumb (underneath on the fleshy part). I reacted and saw briefly a very small black insect which I presumed was an ant. I then went to the shopping centre and on the way my thumb started to feel painful. I then thought I had been bitten by a bee (this has happened to me four times in the past three years) but there was no stinger. After six hours, my thumb was still feeling sore, swollen but not unbearable. We do have red backs in our garden so I then presumed I had been bitten by a baby one. If this is the case, this is the first time in 52 years of living in Australia and also in the 41 years we have lived in our present home. For myself, I’m a great believer in using Dettol for cuts, bites, etc. so I have just dipped my thumb in undiluted Dettol and the soreness has eased a great deal.

    • BobinOz July 5, 2018, 8:53 pm | Link

      Firstly Patricia, I hope you are feeling better and the pain is easing. From what you say though, I don’t think this was a redback spider, I can’t member anybody mentioning any swelling at all here. Most people report a round red sticky patch about the size of a 20 cent coin.

      So I think it was something else that bit you, and my guess, for what it’s worth, would probably be what your first guess was, an ant. Hopefully the Dettol will sort it out.

  • Ouch June 19, 2018, 12:10 pm | Link

    Got bitten a week ago today and it still burns like hell. It seemed to get better after a few days but now it’s getting worse again. Is this normal? Went to hospital and they didn’t do much. I’m also pregnant. Not sure how that affects things, but hospital didn’t seem concerned. I just really want this pain to stop. I can barely sleep and can’t stand the feel of the blanket on my skin. Vinegar is only thing that relieves the pain but only while it’s on it.

    • Theresa June 19, 2018, 4:41 pm | Link

      There may be nothing they can do and the pain should eventually stop but, as you are pregnant, I would see my doctor. Sincerely hope you feel better soon.

      • BobinOz June 19, 2018, 7:31 pm | Link

        Yes, I think it is common for the pain to seemingly go away for a bit and then come back again. I think one person even said they still get the pain still returning a bit after a year or so. I think this is rare though and for most people the pain goes away completely within three or four.

        Let’s hope you fall into that category. Some people in these comments have suggested taking an over-the-counter antihistamine can help, so that could worth a go.

        Good advice Theresa, but Ouch has been to the hospital, one would have hoped they would have said something if they thought it was a problem.

        • Ouch June 19, 2018, 9:00 pm | Link

          Thanks, good to know it’s normal I guess! It was always worse at night too but now it seems to be constant all day long. I’ve switched to ice which gives total relief but only when on it. Second I take it off, it comes back. That would be amazing if it helped, hope pharmacist says it’s okay to take while preg. Yeah, hopefully I won’t be in the group that still gets problems after a year since mine hasn’t resolved in 3-4 days 🙁

          • Ouch June 19, 2018, 9:06 pm | Link

            Should say I also feel fluey, sore muscles, headache, light sensitivity and feverish since the pain got worse again, but that could be something else. Seems weird for systemic envenomation symptoms to have such a delayed onset (6-7 days)?

            • BobinOz June 20, 2018, 5:43 pm | Link

              Quite a few people have mentioned headaches, various other aches and fluey symptoms, but only a couple of people have mentioned feeling feverish after being bitten; for example John Cliff February 23, 2018, 9:53 pm and Pete December 27, 2017, 6:27 am. You can track them down on the previous comment pages. Of the two, John went to hospital and got antivenom, so if that fever doesn’t go away, I would certainly be seeking medical attention if I were you.

              • Ouch June 20, 2018, 6:59 pm | Link

                Thanks Bob. Seems the symptoms are related to bite because as pain of bite has decreased (today) so have the symptoms. Feels like my immune system reacting to the venom. Though reducing, pain still bad so not out of woods yet. Going to try antihistamines and see how I go as I don’t think hospital will be particularly helpful.

                • BobinOz June 21, 2018, 7:55 pm | Link

                  If you do try antihistamines, it would be interesting to hear how that goes.

                  • Ouch June 21, 2018, 9:08 pm | Link

                    Hi Bob. Strangely, the antihistamines made my pain worse! Really suffering and about ready to chop my hand off today. 9 days since bite. Other symptoms seem to have subsided though.

                    • BobinOz June 22, 2018, 4:18 pm | Link

                      Gosh, that is strange. Please don’t chop your hand off though, pretty sure that won’t help. 🙂

    • JJ February 20, 2019, 12:35 am | Link

      Hi, I am also pregnant and got bitten by a red back on the top of my foot, today @ 5pm Perth time and went to the hospital they said to monitor it and gave me some panadol and pain killers if the panadol didn’t work and pain got worse… so filled the script, went home… It’s now 10.30pm and pain has gotten worse, I feel the same way with putting the blanket on. It makes the pain worse and it feels worse than what it did the first two hours. I’ve now got a head ache and feel ill in the tummy. Did this happen to you? How long did the pain last? I’m booked in for the gp tomorrow and I am hoping the pain will settle down so I can sleep but was curious how you went with the pain etc given that you were pregnant in June 2018? Thanks JJ

      • BobinOz February 21, 2019, 8:13 pm | Link

        It doesn’t look as though Ouch is still around monitoring this conversation, but I do hope you are feeling much better now. Hopefully the GP has helped you through this.

        If you get the chance to update us, that would be great. Cheers, Bob

  • Gemma Garner April 30, 2018, 2:08 pm | Link

    We have them all over the garden and my kids know how to identify them and stsy out of their way. Whilst camping however my 8 year old had the classic red back on the toilet seat experience. unfortunately for us we did not realise that was what it was. He did not recall a bite, see a spider and there was no real bite mark visible till 15 hours later. The fact tbat we kept discounting it as a redback bite was a real problem as we could have managed his pain much better. He is a pretty tough kid but he was in unbearable agony for about 12 hours and no pain releif helped at all. We ended up in Neurology at Westmead with a child with no reflexes in his legs and unable to walk at all. A terrifying ordeal, do not underestmate the toxicity of the redback venom. This was a over a month ago and he still has itching at the site and some leg cramping. He also had incredibly red swollen eyes at the time which I havent read about elsewhere. Thanks fot the great advice on here. Wish I had done the antihistamine and icepack or the hospital had could have reduced his pain.

    • BobinOz April 30, 2018, 7:29 pm | Link

      Crikey, that does sound terrifying, must have been a very frightening time. We’ve had a lot of people comment here mentioning a lot of different symptoms, but as you say, no one has talked about red swollen eyes and I don’t think anyone has reported losing the reflexes in their legs and being unable to walk.

      We’ve had a few people saying the soles of their feet or their heels have been painful to walk on, but not that. When I was bitten, I didn’t feel the bite either, so I can understand how easy it is to not know what has happened.

      Glad to hear you got to the bottom of it (no pun intended, honestly) and that your boy is making good progress and I hope he makes an absolutely full recovery very soon.

  • Steve April 2, 2018, 5:46 pm | Link

    I got bitten on the top of my foot today, at first it was like a pin prick feeling, then on kicking off my thong i noticed a redback fall onto the floor, he was quickly dealt with by the other thong!
    No real pain for 5 minutes, but then a sharp pain at the top of my leg in my groin area which progressively got worse.
    After heading to the hospital and being examined i was given Panadol and anti inflammatories, told to rest it and keep it iced. Doctor reckoned a couple of days and should be ok, and that they only give anti venom if the person is affected severely.
    After a few hours the pain in my groin faded but the bite area continued to burn whenever not being iced.
    Hope the pain goes soon.

    • BobinOz April 2, 2018, 7:29 pm | Link

      Yes, quite a few people have mentioned that the pain can spread to the groin area, which I imagine is wholly unpleasant. Antivenom is only given in extreme circumstances because it itself can actually cause a bad reaction in some patients.

      So Panadol and anti-inflammatories along with ice is the best course of action, and as mentioned below by Theresa, it may be worth taking an over-the-counter antihistamine as well.

      Hope you get well soon.

    • Steve April 3, 2018, 6:29 pm | Link

      The next day the burning feeling in the area of the bite subsided but a severe aching in all joints and my shins are now constant and this makes sleeping not possible.

      • BobinOz April 5, 2018, 8:30 pm | Link

        It always amazes me how such a small critter can inflict so much pain from a tiny bite. Many people have mentioned aching joints, but for most it is gone within a week. Hope yours does too.

  • Collette April 2, 2018, 11:49 am | Link

    Hi, we were away travelling in our caravan and I had been sitting outside in the sun. I went inside and flopped on the bed and it was then I felt something crawling on my arm. I didn’t initially look bit just moved my are, thinking it was probably an ant or fly. Shortly after I felt a rapidly increasing burning sensation. I lifted my sleeve to reveal the redback. I flicked it off and pushed a pillow on to it. I then grabbed a tissue to wrap around it. The burning was very intense and radiating but I could not see any visible bite mark. I grabbed a cold face washer and placed on the bite. The redness spread up and down from the elbow. After consulting dr Google and given we were some ways from a hospital I decided to sit it out and make the call to head in if things got worse. I didn’t get any sleep due to the burning sensation which remained intense. There was no nausea, shakes or other symptoms. However, the next day I went to a pharmacist who suggested a combined pain relief with Panadol and ibuprofen as well as an antiseptic cream. I took the tablets and applied the cream for the next 24 hours but as the drugs begin to wear off the pain is returning. I hope that things subside soon.

    • Theresa April 2, 2018, 3:20 pm | Link

      The best over the counter treatment I have heard for these bites,if you have a reaction, is to as soon as possible take some antihistamine pills. The same type of pill you take for hay-fever such as claratyne. Anti-histamines can have quite a miraculous affect on many insect bite skin reactions and a number of people here have taken them for red-back bites and had relief. I am surprised that the pharmacist did not make this suggestion.

      • BobinOz April 2, 2018, 7:25 pm | Link

        Hi Collette

        Yes, hopefully the pain will go away soon, it usually does, but unfortunately for some people it can hang around. I truly hope you are not one of them. As Theresa says (hi Theresa), it might be worthwhile taking an antihistamine as well as pain relief, applying ice to the wound is also good.

        Theresa, I’m not sure why the pharmacist didn’t suggest antihistamines either, but then again neither did my doctor when I spoke to her after being bitten. Not sure why, but I do know other people have mentioned that antihistamines have helped them in these comments, so it does appear to be worthwhile.

  • Theresa March 30, 2018, 3:15 pm | Link

    I must have put my hand into a nest of redbacks under a rock while gardening. I suddenly felt two bites, fortunately through my gardening glove, and quickly pulled the affected glove off. I saw at least 4 spiders hanging on to my gloves. Only two managed to bite me. I did not know that they travelled in packs.
    Probably due to the garden gloves and being able to pull the glove off my hand immediately I felt the two bites (hurt like sonofabitch), could not see the bites. Put my hand in iced water which helped a lot. The pain subsided after about 4 hours but I still got phantom pain every now and then for a couple of days.
    I did not know they could kill you or I may have panicked more. I just expected the pain to ease after a while which it did. Most likely the glove stopped some of the venom getting into me. Hope I never get bitten again. There are hundreds of redbacks around this property and I will try to look where I put my hands in future. Bit paranoid these days.

    • BobinOz April 2, 2018, 6:39 pm | Link

      Potentially, yes, they can kill you, but it is highly unlikely. Always worth taking care to avoid them though, because as you say, it does hurt. Garden gloves are definitely a good idea.

  • Andrey March 12, 2018, 11:24 pm | Link

    Wow, this is probably the biggest collection of Red Back’s encounters. I will add mine from Adelaide. Today around 3.15pm went out to dump a bag of rubbish in the bin which is based at the end of our backyard. Quickly jumped into my thongs and walked towards then bin. In the middle of my trip felt like a got a weed in the left thong so as usual shook the foot to get rid of it and saw a red back falling out. Smashed it straight away and realized that the weed was a bite. I never had such experience before, started to examine the area on my foot but couldn’t find even where I got bitten. In 10 minutes I started to feel like it was a mosquito bite so decided to call 131126 poison hotline and the lady who picked up the phone asked how do I feel myself. I said OK. She said watch it, apply an ice-pack and take panadol if it will become worse, go to the hospital. So, now it is 11.50pm and freaking painful while i’m writing this. The bite area became red with visible center of the bite. Cannot sleep, pain relief doesn’t work at all. Will see how it will progress tomorrow.

    • BobinOz March 13, 2018, 7:00 pm | Link

      Sounds like you had a pretty bad bite there, I hope you managed to get some sleep last night. If the pain has got worse since you make that telephone call, maybe you should go into the hospital?

      My bins are also in my backyard, and I often put rubbish out at night and walk to it barefoot. The bins aren’t far from my back door, about 10 metres, and it is concrete, so I’ve never felt the need. Maybe I will now and it won’t be thongs.

      Hope you’re feeling better today, let us know how it ended up if you get the chance.

      • Andrey March 15, 2018, 6:02 pm | Link

        Just started to get a relief today. Did not sleep that night at all, was sweating like crazy both legs were literally leaking. Went to an ED in the morning and they said that antivenom may be dangerous for me as there is a risk of having an anaphylactic shock. They watched me for a day then let me go home with strong pain relief drugs. Thought that at least I will be able to get a bit of a sleep but Drugs worked only for 1 hour then the pain was coming back and sweating increased. So no sleep at all 2nd night. After not sleeping 2 nights I felt myself very bad and decided to consult with local gp to get some drawsy pills. And he gave me really good antihistamine, don’t remember that name but can check it out that really worked even better than the pain killers. After one pill I was sleeping for 14 hours and sweating is gone for now. Now I feel like I have a flue with weakness in my body and a bit of a headache. GP said that I will recover by Sunday.

        • BobinOz March 16, 2018, 4:14 pm | Link

          That’s good news, looks like those antihistamines have worked well for you. I do know that the antivenom is only given if it is desperately needed, as there can be some bad reactions. Sounds like you are on the mend, albeit a little slowly, but hopefully you’ll be all clear of it soon.

          • Andrey March 16, 2018, 7:58 pm | Link

            I hope so! And thanks for the article and all the comments. They really help!

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