Objective: To investigate the circumstances and clinical effects of bites by white-tail spiders, including the two species Lampona cylindrata and L. murina commonly encountered by humans, and the incidence of necrotic lesions.
Design: Prospective cohort study of definite white-tail spider bites. Cases were only included if there was a clear history of bite, the spider was caught and was identified by an expert.
Setting: Calls to Australian poisons information centres and emergency departments.
Patients: 130 patients with a definite bite by a white-tail spider from February 1999 to April 2002.
Results: There were 79 bites by L. cylindrata and 51 by L. murina. Bites occurred in warmer months, 95% indoors and 75% between 16: 00 and 08: 00. The activity at the time of the bite was characteristic and the spider was encountered between bedclothes, towels or clothing. 25% of bites occurred on distal limbs. Pain/discomfort occurred in all cases, and was severe in 27%. Other effects included puncture marks (17%), redness/red mark (83%) and itchiness (44%). Systemic effects occurred in 9%. There were no cases of necrotic ulcers (97.5% CI, 0–2.8%) or confirmed infections. Median duration of effects was 24 hours (interquartile range, 1–168 hours). There were three distinct clinical patterns: pain only (21%), pain and red mark for < 24 hours (35%), and a persistent painful or irritating red lesion (44%).
Conclusions: Bites by Lampona spp. cause minor effects in most cases, or a persistent painful red lesion in almost half the cases. White-tail spider bites are very unlikely to cause necrotic ulcers, and other diagnoses must be sought.
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