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Spiders are the epitome of terror and horror for many people. Due to the creepy appearance and the fact that all spiders produce venom and have fangs, the Araneae don't really have a good reputation. It is well known that spiders are significantly less dangerous in Germany than in countries like Australia or Brazil. Nevertheless, many people wonder how dangerous a spider bite at home can really be and what measures are required afterwards.

Spider bite in Germany

The bite of a spider, no matter what size, is poisonous. However, this does not mean that every spider venom has the potential to become dangerous to humans. Likewise, there are many taxa whose mandibles, the chelicerae, are not strong or large enough to penetrate the thick layers of human skin, which is ideal protection against the eight-legged bogeys. Native spiders simply lack the "penetrative power" and toxic potency to be truly dangerous to adults, teenagers, and animals such as dogs and cattle.

risk groups

However, the following creatures have to be careful because their skin and susceptibility to poisons is significantly higher:

  • toddlers
  • babies and newborns
  • People with thin, soft or sensitive skin
  • cats
  • Small animals such as hamsters or rabbits

For seniors, it generally depends on their health condition whether a spider bite could be dangerous. However, even if your four-week-old baby is bitten by a native species, you don't really need to worry. The amounts of poison here are simply too small to cause lasting damage. Although the bite will hurt, it does not pose any real danger. It becomes problematic if the wounds become infected, since spiders transport a large number of pathogens on your body and the jaw claws:

  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • mushrooms

If the spider scratches the skin with its mouthparts, they can get into the wound and cause infection. These infections are often much worse than the venom itself and can even harm adult humans.

reasons for a bite

The advantage: In Germany, a spider bite only occurs when the animal feels threatened or cannot escape. Typical situations are:

  • Bruising of the spider, for example when supporting it with the hand
  • Spider is cornered on purpose
  • Spider gets stuck in clothes

The first scenario in particular is typical and children in particular are bitten in this way when they live out their urge to explore. None of the species native to Germany are really aggressive, in contrast to species such as the Australian Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus), which will even attack an approaching human. As soon as you leave the spiders alone and do not squeeze them, they can even be carefully picked up and viewed using a stick.

A total of five species of spiders can be found in the homeland, which can penetrate the skin with their jaw claws and inject poison. Only two of these are medically relevant.

tip: Spider bites, like bee or wasp stings, pose a much greater risk to those allergic to insect stings and you should therefore always check whether an allergic reaction occurs after a bite. If this is the case, you should see a doctor as soon as possible and, if available, use appropriate adrenaline pre-filled syringes that work effectively on the body.

Portrait of 5 species of spiders

As mentioned above, there are five species of spiders in Central Europe that can bite humans. Although all of these are toxic, only two of them are medically relevant, i.e. have consequences for humans. All other spider species that you encounter in the home are completely harmless to you, since their mouthparts cannot even penetrate the thin skin of a baby. Below is a list of the five "most dangerous" spider species in Germany and Central Europe:

1. Nurse's thorn finger

Cheiracanthium punctorium is considered to be the most venomous spider species in Central Europe and is continuous at its orange-red body, long legs and large jaws. The thorn finger's abdomen is yellow-green, while the legs are tan in color. The spider with an approximately 15 millimeter large, oval body is found mainly from southern Germany to Frankfurt am Main and lives in dry forest areas, on meadows and along roadsides. The bite is poisonous and at the same time very painful, similar to a wasp sting. The following symptoms are possible after the bite:

  • Bite strongly burning and stinging
  • swelling at the bite site
  • Bite site resembles a bruise
  • Vomit
  • nausea
  • a headache
  • chills
  • increased body temperature
  • in extreme cases, circulatory collapse

2. Water Spider

In slow-flowing and clean still waters you may encounter Argyroneta aquatica, the water spider. This is also recognizable by its large mouthparts, elongated body and long legs, and its habitat below the water surface. The spider bite is poisonous, but without subsequent consequences for humans apart from pain that is comparable to a wasp sting. The bite site may itch and redden. It is considered the second most dangerous spider in Germany because its chelicerae can penetrate all layers of the skin.

3. Cross Spider

The genus Araneus is often found in gardens, meadow orchards and forests and due to the cross pattern quickly recognizable on the back, especially in the thickened abdomen of the females, which can be up to 18 millimeters in size. A cross spider bite is quite common, but completely harmless, because only thin areas of skin such as the hollow of the knee can be penetrated. Typical symptoms are pain like a bee sting, redness and itching.

4. Zoropsis spinimana

The Zoropsis spinimana migrated from the Mediterranean to southern Germany and is clearly recognizable due to its size of up to two centimeters. In addition, the entire body of the spider hairy. With outstretched legs you can reach sizes of 5 cm. It also looks very long. A bite resembles a weaker bee sting and, apart from an initial burning sensation and some itching, this is harmless. It is also often incorrectly referred to as a curl hunting spider or curl spider. However, these terms are not officially established, because the term "curly spiders" includes over 100 species.

5. Large angle spider

The large angle spider (Eratigena atrica) can also only penetrate the thinnest layers of skin and itching and burning persist for about half an hour. Otherwise, the bite resembles a classic mosquito bite. The house spider is particularly striking because of its extremely long legs, which are unicolored. In addition, they build funnel networks in human dwellings in places that are rarely visited by humans.

As you can see, you don't really have to worry about permanent damage, even with the well-known garden spider. Since many of the symptoms are similar to stings from other insects, you can recover from the bites in a short time. Appropriate measures can be taken more quickly to reduce the intensity of toxic effects and alleviate pain.

tip: Do not confuse spiders with weavers (Opiliones), because they are completely harmless in comparison. Harvestmen, also known as Grandpa Longlegs, have neither teeth that can penetrate human skin nor poison glands and therefore pose no danger to you or your family.

Measures after a spider bite

After a spider bite, there are special measures you can take to mitigate the respective symptoms and speed up healing. These look like this:

  • locate the bite site
  • resembles mosquito or bee bites in size and appearance
  • clean thoroughly under cold running water
  • this removes dirt particles and surface toxin residues
  • disinfect if necessary
  • Cool bite site
  • ice cubes or wrapped cooling pads are suitable for this
  • alternatively, use a damp, cold cloth
  • place them on the bite site
  • change towels over time

Once the area has finally cooled down, you should use a remedy anti-inflammatory use. This is particularly important as it will ensure that the wound does not cause further problems from infection over time. Persistent itching is also somewhat weakened, which reduces the urge to scratch the bite site. From this point on, you must be careful that the wound does not become infected, otherwise health problems can occur. You should look out for the following symptoms:

  • bleeding
  • weeping bite site
  • inflammation

As soon as you notice any of these symptoms, you should go to a doctor as soon as possible, who will take a closer look at the bite site. This is particularly important for people who are sensitive or have an immune deficiency. So stay alert.

tip: Disinfection of bite wounds is not necessary in most cases, but should be done if you have been in dense forest areas, for example. Spiders are wild animals and can always transmit pathogens, especially if the bite is large enough.

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