Spider bites factsheet


Australia is home to many different types of spiders. Most species of spiders are venomous. 

Venom is a type of poison that is delivered to the bloodstream through biting or stinging. Venomous spiders have long, sharp teeth or fangs which they use to bite.

Because some spiders are so small, their fangs are not long or strong enough to get through human skin and into the bloodstream. Other spiders may also have venom that is strong enough to kill other small animals but has no effect on humans.

In Australia, some common types of spiders have venom that is dangerous to humans.

Funnel-web spiders

Funnel-web spiders are:

  • black or dark brown 
  • shiny or glossy
  • around 1.5-3.5 centimetres long.

They will make burrows and hide in and around places on the ground, like:

  • logs
  • rocks
  • dense garden shrubs
  • holes and rotted parts of some trees.

Funnel-web spiders can move very quickly. When they feel threatened, they will rear up on their back legs, lunge quickly and bite using their fangs.

Funnel-web spiders are sometimes confused with other black spiders, like mouse spiders.

Mouse spiders

Mouse spiders are:

  • plump
  • black, black with a light grey or white patch on top, or dark blue 
  • shiny or glossy
  • around 1.5-3.5 centimetres long.

Mouse spiders are less common. They will make burrows and hide in and around places on the ground, like:

  • riverbanks
  • creeks
  • gardens.

Mouse spiders can move very quickly. When they feel threatened, they will rear up on their back legs, lunge quickly and bite using their fangs.

Mouse spiders are sometimes confused with other black spiders, like funnel-web spiders.

Redback spiders

Redback spiders:

  • are black or dark brown with a red stripe on their body
  • have long, thin legs
  • have round bodies and smaller heads
  • are around 1 centimetre long for females, and 3-4 millimetres long for males.

Redback spiders can be very common in places where humans live. 
They can build their webs in dry, sheltered places like:

  • rocks
  • logs
  • rubbish piles
  • bushes
  • sheds
  • toilets.

Redback spiders are most likely to bite when a person physically touches their web.

 Signs and symptoms

Symptoms of a spider bite will look different depending on the type of spider.

It is not always easy to tell what kind of spider has bitten a child. Any bite from a spider that is big and black-coloured should be treated as a medical emergency.

General symptoms of a spider bite can include:

  • sharp pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • abdominal or belly pain
  • swelling and redness.

Do not wait for symptoms of a spider bite to show up. Call an ambulance on triple zero (000) for help.

Funnel-web and mouse spiders

Symptoms of funnel-web and mouse spider bites include:

  • severe pain
  • sweating
  • nausea and vomiting
  • drooling
  • headache
  • watery eyes
  • difficulty breathing
  • confusion and anxiety
  • numbness
  • tingling and twitching in the mouth
  • tongue and muscle spasms.

Redback spiders

Symptoms of a red-back spider bite can include:

  • severe pain that can spread away from the bite
  • redness and swelling 
  • headaches
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweating
  • muscle aches
  • tiredness
  • weakness.

These symptoms can be delayed and may last for several days.

Other spiders

Bites from other types of spiders, including white-tail spiders, will usually cause pain and mild symptoms. 

Symptoms are usually around the skin that was bitten and can include:

  • mild or sharp pain
  • burning
  • redness
  • swelling
  • blistering.

Anaphylaxis and spider bites

Some children are at risk of severe allergic reactions to spider bites. This is called anaphylaxis.

Signs of anaphylaxis include: 

  • wheezing, difficult, or noisy breathing 
  • swelling of the tongue
  • swelling or tightness in the throat
  • a persistent cough
  • difficulty talking or a hoarse voice
  • dizziness
  • becoming pale and floppy in young children
  • collapsing.

Children at risk of anaphylaxis may also vomit.

If your child has signs of anaphylaxis, you should:

  • follow your child’s ASCIA action plan for anaphylaxis if you have one
  • use an EpiPen® or Anapen®, if there is one available
  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.


Some spider bites are life-threatening. If you think your child has been bitten by a funnel-web or other big, black-coloured spider, they will need treatment in the hospital.

Bites from red-back or other spiders can usually be treated at home with first aid and do not need a diagnosis.

Speak to the NSW Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your local doctor for more information.


Bites from funnel-web or other big, black-coloured spiders are a medical emergency.

If your child is bitten by a big, black-coloured spider, you will need to:

  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance, even if you are out of phone reception
  • travel to the nearest emergency department if you cannot call
  • give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if they collapse or stop breathing.

First aid for funnel-webs and other big, black-coloured spiders

To give first aid for a bite from a funnel-web or other big, black-coloured spider:

  1. remove your child from danger
  2. watch to make sure your child does not lose consciousness or stop breathing.
  3. call triple zero (000) for an ambulance and follow any instructions given over the phone
  4. wrap the bite and limb in a pressure bandage
  5. keep your child as still as possible until the ambulance arrives.

Pressure bandaging is used to stop the venom from travelling further into the body. Pressure bandages should be wrapped firmly, but not so tight that your child feels numb or their skin changes colour.

To apply a pressure bandage:

  1. wrap a firm, wide elastic bandage over the bite
  2. wrap a firm, wide elastic bandage over the entire limb – fingers to shoulder, toes to hip
  3. use a splint or another hard object to keep the limb straight.

If you do not have an elastic bandage, you can use:

  • clothing
  • towels
  • socks or stockings.

First aid for red-back and other spider bites

To give first aid for a bite from a red-back spider:

  1. wash the bite with soap and water
  2. apply an antiseptic cream if available
  3. apply and ice-pack or use cool running water to reduce swelling and manage pain
    • do not apply ice to bites on the eye
  4. use over-the-counter pain relief like paracetamol or ibuprofen to manage ongoing pain
  5. watch your child to make sure symptoms do not get worse.

If pain and symptoms get worse, or your child develops an infection:

  • call the poisons information centre on 13 11 26 for advice and support
  • speak to your local doctor as soon as possible.

Treatment in hospital for funnel-web spider bites

In the hospital, your child will have regular checks and blood tests to:

  • confirm whether they were bitten by a funnel-web spider
  • manage any developing symptoms
  • make sure they are conscious and breathing well.

Blood tests are also used to check whether anti-venom can be used to treat the bite.

Anti-venom is a special medication that can be injected into the bloodstream. Anti-venom treats funnel-web spider bites by stopping the venom from working.


Preventing spider bites

Teaching your child to leave spiders alone is one of the most important ways you can help prevent bites. Spiders bite to defend themselves from humans and animals, so bites often happen when a spider is picked up, threatened, or touched by accident. 

If your child does come across a spider, they should:

  • be calm
  • back away to a safe distance
  • tell a responsible adult.

You can also support your child to keep safe from spiders by:

  • not disrupting, exploring or playing on rocks, logs and other places where funnel-web or mouse spiders live
  • wearing thick, protective gloves when gardening or digging 
  • wearing closed-in shoes, long-sleeve tops, and long pants for protection when doing outside activities like bush-walking
  • being careful after heavy rain as it can flush funnel-web spiders out of their burrows
  • being careful and not touching spiders in water that look dead, as they can survive for hours
  • taking care when cleaning outside areas and emptying pool skimmer boxes 
  • watching out for spider webs, especially around outdoor furniture or sheds.

Insect repellent and spiders

Some types of insect repellents can be used to keep spiders away from children. Insect repellent does not protect children from the effects of spider venom if they have been bitten.

Children over 12 months of age can use small amounts of insect repellent.

Very strong insect repellents contain an ingredient called DEET. Repellents with up to 10% DEET are safe for use on children.

Speak to your local doctor or pharmacist for more information, or advice on the right kind of insect repellent to use.

Insect repellent should be:

  • kept away from the eyes, mouth and any broken skin or cuts
  • sprayed onto clothing for young children, instead of directly onto the skin
  • reapplied after swimming, exercising or sweating.
Last updated Monday 15th April 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024