15th November 2012 -- People with arachnophobia, a fear of spiders, will be saying their fears are justified, after reports that a woman has been bitten by a spider in Surrey.
Natalie Hemme, 31, tells the Sun how the house spider bit her in bed. Later, her arm became swollen, restricting blood flow and causing a muscle condition called compartment syndrome. She says at one stage, doctors were concerned her arm might have needed to be amputated.
She's told of operations to repair skin damage and physiotherapy before she could return to work. She tells the newspaper: "In this country we don’t worry about insect or spider bites - but I want to warn what can happen."
Arachnophobia is one of the UK's most commonly reported phobias. So, with more spiders creeping indoors at this time of year, how concerned should we be?
Spider bites are rare in the UK but the Natural History Museum documents 14 genuine cases of bites from domestic spiders. In one case, a bite from a tube web spider, Segestria florentina, resulted in the injured person reporting: "A sharp and painful bite; felt like a deep injection and caused quite a shock."
Other UK spider bites came from:
False widow spider, Steatoda nobilis
Woodlouse spider, Dysdera crocata
Walnut orb-weaver spider, Nuctenea umbratica
False widow spider or cellar spider, Steatoda grossa
Lace weaver spider, Amaurobius similis
Black lace weaver spider, Amaurobius ferox
Mouse spider, Herpyllus blackwalli
Rustic wolf spider, Trochosa ruricola
Bark sac spider, Clubiona corticalis
Stone spider, Drassodes lapidosus
Cross or garden spider, Araneus diadematus
Bruennichi's Argiope, Argiope bruennichi
Money spider, Leptohoptrum robustum
The Natural History Museum also reports on spider bites from species from outside the UK, often coming in to the country with imported fruit:
Exotic sac spider, Cheiracanthium
Huntsman spider, Heteropoda venatoria
Black widow spider, Latrodectus mactans
False widow spider, Steatoda paykulliana
Despite Natalie Hemme's experience, spider expert Matt Shardlow from the charity Buglife tells us by email that we shouldn’t be concerned. "There are a lot of spiders in Britain and most of them would never bite people," he says. "The house spider does have fangs big enough to penetrate human skin. But they’re not known to attack people, even though they have the potential."
The NHS says spiders may give a nasty nip after being handled roughly or if they get trapped in clothes. Spider bites leave puncture marks.
However, "Bites are extraordinarily rare and won’t often cause more than tingling," Matt says.
Spider benefits and removal
Is there a benefit of having spiders in the house? They do eat flies, Matt tells us: "For most of the year house spiders keep a very low profile. They feed on house flies. There are about 650 different species of spider in the UK, including some rare and endangered spiders such as the ladybird spider, fen raft spider and distinguished jumping spider. Buglife works to conserve these species and their habitats."
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