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Funnel-web spider bite

Definition

This article describes the effects of a bite from the funnel-web spider. Male funnel-web spiders are more poisonous than females. The class of insects to which the funnel-web spider belongs, contains the largest number of venomous species known.

This article is for information only. DO NOT use it to treat or manage a bite from this type of spider. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

The venom in the funnel-web spider contains the poison.

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 very painful and dangerous. They have been known to cause these symptoms in different parts of the body:

EYES, EARS, NOSE, AND THROAT

  • Drooling
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Double vision
  • Swallowing difficulty
  • Tingling or numbness in the mouth or lips within 10 to 15 minutes

HEART AND BLOOD

  • Collapse
  • 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

  • Heavy sweating
  • Redness around the site of the bite

STOMACH AND INTESTINES

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting

Home Care

Funnel-web spider bites are very poisonous. Seek medical help right away. Call the Poison Control Center or 911 for guidance.

Follow these steps until medical help is given:

  • Clean the area with soap and water.
  • Wrap ice in a clean cloth and place it on the bite area.
  • Leave the ice on for 10 minutes and then remove it for 10 minutes.
  • Repeat this process.
  • If the person has blood flow problems, decrease the time that the ice is on the area to prevent possible skin damage.
  • Keep the affected area still, if possible, to prevent the venom from spreading. A homemade splint may be helpful if the bite was on the arms, legs, hands, or feet.
  • Loosen clothing and remove rings and other tight jewelry.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Time the bite occurred
  • Area on the body where the bite occurred
  • Type of spider, if possible

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. 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.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

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

The person may receive:

  • Antivenin, a medicine to reverse the effects of the venom, if available
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support, including oxygen, tube through the mouth into the throat, and breathing machine
  • Chest x-ray
  • ECG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Intravenous fluids (through a vein)
  • Medicines to treat symptoms

Outlook (Prognosis)

Funnel-web spider bites can be life threatening, especially in children. They must be treated quickly with antivenin by an experienced provider. Even with appropriate and quick treatment, symptoms may last for several days to weeks. The original bite may be small and may progress to a blood blister and look like a bull's eye. (This is similar to the appearance of a brown recluse spider bite.)

The area affected by the bite may become deeper. Additional symptoms such as fever, chills, and other signs of additional organ system involvement may develop. Deep scarring may occur and surgery may be needed to improve appearance of the scar.

References

Boyer LV, Binford GJ, Degan JA. Spider bites. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Aurebach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 43.

Nogar JN, Clark RF. Arthropod bites and stings. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 140.

Otten EJ. Venomous animal injuries. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 55.

Review Date:7/9/2017
Reviewed By:Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Emeritus, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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Health Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

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