A MUM is considering calling in bug hunters after being hospitalised by a false widow spider bite.
Louise Edwards, 49, was left with an oozing ‘golf ball-sized abscess’ in her armpit after being bitten while she was clearing out her summerhouse.
And doctors admitted that the false widow, whose bite produces necrosis of the flesh, had bitten her perilously close to an artery.
A month on from her ordeal, Louise is now urging anyone bitten by a creepy crawly to monitor the bite and seek medical attention if it becomes inflamed.
Louise, from Barry in South Wales, was bitten as she was carrying a cushion under her arm pit at the bottom of her garden.
At first she didn’t feel anything but a day later she noticed her arm pit had become swollen and felt like a burn.
She said: “The plan was to get an old sofa out of the summerhouse and then put a new red one my friend gave me in.
“It was a lovely afternoon and went I got home from work I felt really motivated to get it sorted.
“As I moved the furniture I saw four thumbnail-sized spiders, swept them away and didn’t think any more of it.
“I had an open-sleeved blouse on and put one of the cushions under my arm but didn’t feel anything.
“It was only the following day when I was putting a wetsuit jacket on at an aquapark in Cardiff Bay that I realised my underarm looked red, was slightly raised and felt like a burn.
“I assumed it was a bite, I knew I’d been irritated by something, so I took some antihistamines and didn’t think anything of it.”
However, within 48 hours, the pain got more severe – forcing Louise to take painkillers to tackle the burning sensation in her armpit and the shooting pains down her arm.
Louise said: “I drove up to north Wales on Wednesday with work and the bite was annoying me because it was rubbing whenever I drove so I started taking painkillers.
“I had a proper look at it that night and realised it was a bite as I could see two little holes.
“It felt like a burn and I also had shooting pains down my arm.”
Days later, the bite came to a head and looked as though it was ready to burst so Louise put a heated compress on it to draw it out – something she regrets.
Louise said: “That evening it looked like it had a little head on it and was going to pop.
“I got some heat to encourage it but it was the worst thing I could have done.
Spotting a false widow spider
- The false widow is a medium sized spider with a round, brown body and cream coloured markings.
- Its legs are a reddish-orange colour.
- Females range in size from 9.5 to 14mm while males are 7 to 11mm.
- The spider’s body and legs will have a glossy appearance.
- The species closely resembles the black widow spider, aside from its colouring.
“I did the hot compress first thinking that would draw out the poison but it just made it feel increased the burning sensation so then I had to put ice on it because it was absolute agony.
“I had burning, shooting pains down my arm like nerve pain. It felt like when you catch yourself on straighteners. No throbbing – just stabbing pains.”
After the bite ballooned to the size of a golf ball, Louise visited an out-of-hours doctor on Bank Holiday Monday who immediately referred her to University Hospital of Wales.
At the hospital Louise underwent blood tests to check infection marker levels and underwent a 10-minute procedure to scoop out the infected flesh.
Louise said: “It was horrible knowing all that infection was inside me – all from a spider bite.
“At the hospital there was talk of needing to deal with it under general anaesthetic. My heart sank as it sounded really serious.
“I remember saying to the doctors ‘you are kidding me?’. They said because it was so close to the artery they’ve got to be careful with these things.
“I couldn’t believe all this had happened because I put a cushion under my arm.
“They removed the capsule of the abscess, which was the size of a golf ball, and I was left with a one-and-a-half-inch hole in my arm.”
Louise was put on a combination of antibiotics to clear up the infection and had the open wound packed and re-dressed every day.
Due to the bite and its location, fitness fanatic Louise was unable to go into work or attend her weekly exercise classes.
Louise said: “Even though I work in medicine alarm bells still went off. I was dubious that it was getting better as it took several days for the antibiotics to make a change.
“I was off work for three weeks because any driving irritated it and couldn’t do any fitness training either.
“It’s been very frustrating not to get out there to classes for the last couple of weeks but I didn’t want to risk it getting re-infected.”
Louise said she knew the spiders were the culprit after recognising their distinctive markings when she spotted them in the summerhouse.
Louise, who lives with her 11-year-old son Cadel Edwards-Davies, said: “I saw them running away when I went into the summerhouse – they had the markings that are really obvious.
“I’ve never had an allergic reaction to anything I’ve been bitten by before.
“I wasn’t a fan of spiders before this but clearly I can’t stand them now. My fear’s rubbed off on my son now, he’s not a fan of them now either after what happened.
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“I’ve not been in the summerhouse since but I’m going to set a ‘bug bomb’ off in there and if that doesn’t work I’ll need to get someone in to fumigate it thoroughly.”
Hoping people can avoid going through the ordeal she has, Louise is now urging anyone bitten by a critter to monitor it and seek medical attention if it starts to look or feel inflamed.
Louise said: “My advice would be to keep an eye on it and if it becomes inflamed get it checked out straight away.”
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