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Surrey woman recovers from spider bite

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
house spider

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."

Spider concerns

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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