With temperatures slowly dropping over the next few weeks, more of us will see spiders coming in from the cold to keep warm and breed  – so St John Ambulance is issuing advice over what to do if bitten. 

While spider bite reactions are typically mild and can usually be managed at home, in recent years there has been a rise in False Widow spiders, which bite, and though not particularly venomous, its bite can feel like a wasp sting.  

More rarely, bites can be severe, causing intense swelling and irritation, and an allergic reaction. A severe allergic reaction, also known as anaphylaxis, can develop in just seconds and can affect the whole body. If not treated quickly enough, it can be fatal.  

Steve Hatton, paramedic and Head of Clinical Operations at St John Ambulance is urging people with known allergies to bites and stings, to be prepared by ensuring their home first aid kits are stocked with an epi-pen (if already prescribed) or antihistamines. 

He said, “Essentially, for most, spider bites (of the UK variety) are nothing more than an irritation. However, in rare cases, a person will have a more serious anaphylactic reaction due to an allergy to the spider venom rather than the actual potency of spider venom (much like a bee or wasp sting). Others may later develop secondary complications such as infection of the surrounding skin (cellulitis) which is more to do with bacteria – normally found on the skin –entering where the bite is, or because of scratching the itchy skin, creating a route for infection.” 

First Aid Advice from St John Ambulance: How to Spot an Allergic Reaction  

Look for:   

·       Red, itchy rash, or raised area of skin (weals) 

·       Red, itchy, watery eyes 

·       Swelling of hands, feet, or face  

·       Abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhoea  

More serious symptoms include sudden onset:  

·       Difficulty in breathing 

·       Swelling of tongue and throat with puffiness around eyes 

·       Confusion and agitation  

·       Signs of shock leading to collapse and unresponsiveness.  

What to do if there are signs of a severe allergic reaction: 

1.      Call 999 or 112 straight away and tell the ambulance service that you suspect a severe allergic reaction.   

2.      If someone is having a severe allergic reaction, then they may have medication, like an auto-injector. This is a pre-filled injection device containing adrenaline which, when injected, can help reduce the body’s allergic reaction.   

3.      Check if they have one, and if they do, help them to use it or do it yourself following the instructions.  

4.      Help them to get comfortable and monitor their breathing and level of response.  

5.      Repeated doses of adrenaline can be given at five-minute intervals if there is no improvement or the symptoms return.  

 If the symptoms are not severe or there’s a concern about infected skin after a spider bite, see your GP or call NHS 111.