Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Funnel web spider ready to strike

Funnel web spider ready to strike
beginning of content

Spider bites

8-minute read

If you’ve been bitten by a big black spider, treat it as a medical emergency. Call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Key facts

  • A funnel-web spider bite is a medical emergency, and you should call an ambulance.
  • Most redback spider bites can be treated at home.
  • White tail spiders aren’t considered dangerous to humans.
  • In some people, spider bites can cause anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction).

Spider bites in Australia

It can be difficult to know if a bite from a spider is dangerous or not. This article explains the best first aid treatment needed for different spider bites.

In some people, spider bites can cause anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction). Learn more about first aid treatment for severe allergic reactions in the ‘anaphylaxis’ section below.

Different types of spider bite

In terms of first aid, there are 3 types of spiders in Australia:

  1. Funnel-web spiders and other big black spiders — bites from these spiders are very dangerous and can cause death.
  2. Redback spiders — their bites may cause significant pain, but they aren’t life-threatening.
  3. All other spiders in Australia are generally harmless.
Infographic with info about funnel-web and big black spiders

Funnel-web spider and other big black spider bite symptoms

A funnel-web spider bite causes:

  • bad pain
  • lots of sweating
  • nausea and vomiting (feeling and being sick)

Other symptoms that you may have include:

  • drooling
  • difficulty breathing
  • confusion
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • twitching of your mouth and tongue

Mouse spider bites are not common, but their symptoms are similar to a bite from a funnel-web spider.

First aid for a funnel-web spider bite

If you suspect you have been bitten by a funnel-web spider, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Stay calm and follow these steps:

  1. lie down
  2. mark the site of the bite on the skin with a pen or take a photo
  3. apply a pressure immobilisation bandage (see below)
  4. use a splint to keep the limb still — this slows the movement of venom around your body
  5. keep still
  6. wait for the ambulance to arrive

If someone is with you, they can try to carefully catch the spider so it can be identified. To do this:

  1. place an empty jar over the spider
  2. push a stiff piece of card under the mouth of the jar
  3. up-end the jar so that the spider falls to the bottom
  4. quickly remove the card and replace the jar's lid

Pressure immobilisation bandage

An elasticated bandage is recommended for anyone bitten by a funnel-web spider. An elasticated bandage slows down the movement of spider venom into your blood.

Follow these steps to apply an elasticated roller bandage:

  1. wrap an elasticated bandage over the bite itself
  2. wrap a second bandage over the whole limb

The bandage should be tight — but shouldn’t cut off your circulation. You should not be able to easily slide a finger between the bandage and your skin.

When wrapping the second bandage, start just above the fingers or toes of your bitten limb and move towards your body.

Write down:

  • the time of the bite
  • when the bandage was put on
Infographic with info about Redback Spiders

Redback spider bite symptoms

A redback spider bite can cause:

  • pain
  • redness
  • sweating at the bite site

First aid for a redback spider bite

If you have been bitten by a redback spider:

  1. wash the bite area with soap and water
  2. use a cold pack for 15 minutes to relieve pain
  3. see your doctor if you have bad symptoms

If your pain is very bad, go to your local hospital emergency department.

First aid for other spider bites

For all other spider bites:

  • apply a cold compress to the bite site for 15 minutes
  • reapply as needed

You can use an ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth. This treatment will help relieve your pain.

Don’t put the ice directly on your skin as it might cause a cold burn.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

White tail spiders

White tail spiders aren’t considered dangerous to humans. They can cause:

  • an initial burning pain
  • swelling
  • itchiness

Current evidence suggests that skin ulceration (necrotising arachnidism) isn’t commonly due to a white tail spider bite.

Anaphylactic shock

Some people occasionally have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to being bitten by a spider. Anaphylactic shock is very serious and can cause death.

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock are:

  • difficult or noisy breathing
  • difficulty talking and/or a hoarse voice
  • a swollen tongue
  • persistent dizziness or collapse
  • swelling or tightness in the throat
  • being pale and floppy (young children)
  • wheeze or persistent cough
  • abdominal pain or vomiting

If someone is experiencing anaphylaxis, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

In some cases, a person bitten by a spider may need cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

How can I prevent being bitten by a spider?

To prevent spider bites:

  • leave spiders alone
  • wear gloves when gardening
  • relocate spiders in your home outside
  • check your shoes before putting them on

Resources and support

You can learn more about spiders on the Australian Museum website.

St John Ambulance Australia has a first aid fact sheet for spiders on its website.

St John Ambulance Australia has a printable poster on first aid resuscitation procedures.

For more information on anaphylaxis, including setting up a personal action plan, visit the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy’s website.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2023


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

White-tail spider bite - symptoms and treatment - myDr.com.au

Although a white-tail spider bite can be painful and cause temporary skin irritation, experts say it’s very unlikely to cause skin ulcers and slow-healing wounds.

Read more on myDr website

Spider bites

Read more on St John Ambulance Australia website

First aid for bites and stings - myDr.com.au

First aid tips for bites and stings from some of the most venomous creatures in the world - snakes, spiders, jellyfish, blue ringed octopus and cone snail - all of which are found in Australia.

Read more on myDr website

Bites and stings quick guide

Read more on St John Ambulance Australia website

Bites and stings | Health and wellbeing | Queensland Government

Learn how to apply first aid for bites and stings and when to seek medical treatment.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Spiders - Better Health Channel

Australia has about 2,000 species of spider but most species are relatively harmless to humans.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Bites and stings – first aid - Better Health Channel

First aid information about what to do If for common bites and stings. Includes - spiders, snakes, scorpions, bees, ticks, wasps, octopus, jellyfish and other sea creatures.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

After a flood – animal and insect related hazards - Better Health Channel

When returning to a flood-affected area, remember that wild animals, including rats, mice, snakes or spiders, may be trapped in your home, shed or garden.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Bites and stings | Queensland Poisons Information Centre

Learn about common symptoms of bites and stings, what first aid to use, when to get medical help or call an ambulance.

Read more on Queensland Health website

ACD A-Z of Skin - Erythema Annulare Centrifugum

A-Z OF SKIN Erythema Annulare Centrifugum BACK TO A-Z SEARCH What is it? Also known as … Superficial or Deep Gyrate Erythema, Erythema Perstans, Palpable Migrating Erythema What is Erythema Annulare Centrifugum? Erythema Annulare Centrifugum (EAC) refers to an annular (ring-shaped) erythematous (red) skin eruption that tends to spread outwards whilst clearing centrally

Read more on Australasian College of Dermatologists website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.