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Funnel-web spider bite

This article describes the effects of a bite from the funnel-web spider. Male funnel-web spiders are more poisonous than females.

This is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Poisonous Ingredient

  • Funnel-web spider venom

Where Found

Funnel-web spiders are found in southeast Australia, around Sydney. They are not native to the United States, although some people may keep them as exotic pets.

Symptoms

Funnel-web spider bites are extremely painful. They usually cause tingling or numbness in the mouth or lips within 10 - 15 minutes. These bites can be very dangerous and have been known to cause all of the following symptoms:

  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat
    • Drooling
    • Drooping eyelids
    • Double vision
    • Swallowing difficulty
  • Heart and blood
    • Collapse
    • High blood pressure
    • Rapid heart rate
  • Lungs
    • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscles and joints
    • Joint pain
    • Severe muscle spasms -- usually in the legs and belly area
  • Nervous system
    • Agitation
    • Confusion
    • Coma
    • Headache
    • Numbness of mouth and lips
    • Tremors
    • Shivering (chills)
  • Skin
    • Redness around the site of bite
    • Sweating -- excessive
  • Stomach and intestines
    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

Home Treatment

Funnel-web spider bites are extremely poisonous. Seek immediate medical attention. Call the Poison Control Center for guidance. Apply a bandage and firm pressure over the bite, and keep the affected area still, if possible, to prevent the venom from spreading. "It may help to use a homemade splint to keep affected area still if the bite occurred on your arms, legs, hands or feet.

Loosen clothing and remove rings and other tight jewelry.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition
  • Time the bite occurred
  • Type of spider, if possible

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

See: Poison control center - emergency number

What to expect at the emergency room

The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The wound will be treated as appropriate.

The patient may receive:

  • Breathing support
  • Fluids through a vein (by IV)
  • Medications to treat symptoms
  • Antivenin medication, if available

Expectations (prognosis)

Funnel-web spider bites can be life threatening, especially in children, and must be treated quickly with antivenin by an experienced doctor. Even with appropriate and timely treatment symptoms may persist for several days to weeks.

References

Boyer LV, Binford GJ, McNally JT. Spider bites. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 46.

Clark RF, Schneir AB. Arthropod bites and stings. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 194.

Updated: 12/15/2011

Eric Perez, MD, St. Luke's / Roosevelt Hospital Center, NY, NY, and Pegasus Emergency Group (Meadowlands and Hunterdon Medical Centers), NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.


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