None would be unaware of the infamous story ‘The King & The Spider’ where a spider’s perseverance taught a much-needed lesson for the king. Such famous are these arthropods that there are more than 40,000 species of spiders identified worldwide and real numbers are estimated to be 4 times more than this number presented here. All of these are predators that feed on insects and other tiny animals. Spiders are air-breathing arthropods (largest species collection) that are diversely found ranking seventh in total species diversity.
Just like lizards and cockroaches, many of us are scared of these eight-legged creatures but spiders rarely harm humans or bite them unless threatened. No spider attacks a human for some reason, all the more bite someone. They inflict pain only when an individual accidentally harm it or when the spider misinterprets the person’s movement with that of a prey. History shows that there is only one aggressive spider till date, the funnel-web in Australia, which attacks humans without any reason or provocation.
Each of us would have come across or been victims of spider bites sometime in our life. Most of these bites are harmless, many of them blamed on spiders seem to have been inflicted by other bugs and sometimes, skin infections have also been mistaken for spider bites. Tiny might be the species, but its bite can rarely be extremely dangerous and damaging. Spiders have hollow tusk-like jaws connected at the base with poison glands that produce toxins delivered by the jaws. Amongst the 40,000+ species, few of them can penetrate human skin and even if they do so, most of these possess toxins that have little or no effect on humans. Rarest of the rare species have both the abilities-penetrating through the human skin and disposing toxic venom-together that can cause serious human disease. The severity of reaction to spider venom depends on numerous factors such as the quantity of the venom injected, site of bite, duration, age and health conditions.
Victims of spider bite experience pain and swelling in the site of biting, necrosis, respiratory distress, kidney dysfunction, hypertension and death. Some of the world’s most poisonous spiders and the available treatments are discussed here:
Brown Recluse Spider
Characterized by a violin-shaped marking on its back, this spider is a nocturnal creature that rests mostly during the daytime. Individuals wearing clothes or shoes displaying spiders are bitten. The bite is painless, but the degree of pain increases in a couple of hours manifesting as inflammatory, hemorrhagic and painful lesions. Antivenoms dispensed decrease the size of the necrotic area and faster they are dispensed, minimal is their manifestation. Recommendations are to dispense these antivenoms within first 4 hours of the bite, but certain investigations seem to find them useful even after 12 hours.
The spiders are names so because they like to hide away in undisturbed areas and prefer to live indoors, for instance, amongst the clutter of basement or attics, behind bookshelves and dresses and in unused/rarely used cupboards. Outside, they choose their quiet spot underneath rocks or tree stumps.
Black Widow Spider
One amongst the famous venomous spiders, black widow spider has a black hairless body and commonly found in North America and Australia. The entire body is pitch black with the exception of a red marking, in the shape of an hourglass, on the abdomen. The bite hurts minimally, similar to a pinprick. This spider bites during the warm summer months and mortality rates are as low as 1%. But rarely, especially in children, the bite of a dark widow or brown recluse spider results in death.
Symptoms include abdominal cramping, sweating profusely, fever, chills and body aches. Rarely the cramps can be such intense that they are mistaken for appendicitis or a ruptured appendix. Sometimes, the central portion of the bite turns dark blue or purple and emerge as an open sore (ulcer) that grows in size as the surrounding skin dies. The ulcer growth stops within 10 days after the bite, but complete healing takes months together and high degree of severity might result in grafting the affected site. Treatment consists of using muscle relaxants, narcotics, analgesics and antivenom.
The most dangerous spider in the world, this spider is aggressive even in the absence of provocation. The web formed by this spider is funnel-shaped and hence the name. Pain, hives, diaphoresis and piloerection are local symptoms. A funnel-web bite can cause drooping eyelids, double vision, swallowing difficulty, rapid heart rate, breathing difficulty, joint pain, muscle spasms, shivering, headache, coma, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Hives can irritate a person due to itching and also sting them. Read more on hives, their causes and treatments at www.firsteatright.com.
Treatment includes bandaging for blocking lymph nodes, limb immobilization and taking the affected person to the hospital as fast as possible. Antivenom must be given immediately after hospitalization along with other measures such as ventilatory support and tetanus vaccination.
A spider bite might produce a reaction similar to that of a bee sting and result in redness, pain and swelling. Treat spider bite by:
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.