A TERRIFIED mum was left with giant oozing blisters after being bitten by two false widow spiders in just two months.
Sally MacFarlane felt ‘ticklish’ when the first spider sunk its fangs into the back of her right lower leg while she was tending to her horse and thought little of the small bloody mark.
But within 48 hours the skin around the bite turned bright pink, felt hot to the touch and days later huge blisters the size of 50p pieces erupted on her leg and she said the wound took on the shape of a Toy Story villain.
Strangely, she said it bore an uncanny resemblance to Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear, the villain in Toy Story 3, and even began to look like the face of children’s favourite sliced meat Billy Bear slices.
Sally, 40, from Grimsby, Lincs, went to her GP after the redness spread up her leg and was given antibiotics to tackle the infection.
She said: “I sent a picture of my leg to my staff when I went to the GP and they all said it was horrendous.
“They also pointed out that it looked like the pink and white Lots-O-Huggin’ Bear from Toy Story – once they said that I was like ‘oh my goodness, it does, doesn’t it?’.”
The childcare business owner’s blisters were so horrific that she couldn’t bring herself to tell children the cause of her injuries in case she scared them.
She added: “I work with children who were like ‘eugh what’s that on your leg?’.
“I didn’t want to say a spider bit me because it would terrify them.”
Sally, who lives with fire officer husband Stuart Macfarlane, 42, and daughters Charlotte, 16, and Holly, 14, had been visiting her 13-year-old horse Pedro in a nearby field and said the spider sunk its fangs into her as she stood near the stables.
Sally said: “I was given antibiotics to tackle the infection and was on them for about a week, but it took three months for it to heal properly as the blisters kept re-filling and draining again.”
The next month Sally went back to the field and was bitten yet again by a false widow on her left ankle.
The unlucky mum-of-two continued: “That evening I watched my leg and saw it going red and my ankle swelled up, I thought ‘oh goodness, here we go again’.
“I asked my daughter what she saw on my leg. She scrolled through lots of pictures on Google and said ‘that was it’ – it was a false widow spider.
“The doctors said they couldn’t believe it had happened to me again and put me straight back on the cream and tablets, which sorted it out.”
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF BITTEN BY A FALSE WIDOW?
According to the NHS, to treat a bite you must:
- Remove the sting, tick or hairs if still in the skin.
- Wash the affected area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold compress or an ice pack to any swelling for at least 10 minutes.
- Raise or elevate the affected area if possible.
- Avoid scratching the area or bursting any blisters, to reduce the risk of infection
- Avoid traditional home remedies, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, as they’re unlikely to help.
If spider bites become infected or cause severe allergic reaction you must seek medical help immediately.
The culprits were found during a clean-out of the stable when Sally realised it was infested with spiders.
Sally added: “When I was tidying out the shed I found a load of them in my shed and took a picture.
“In the stables and sheds you get big spiders, it’s to be expected, and I’m fine with them.
“It’s funny that people are scared of big hairy spiders that smile when they look at you when it’s the little ones you need to be looking out for.”
A year later after the ordeal, Sally is urging anyone who is bitten by a false widow to monitor it and seek medical attention if it starts to look and feel inflamed.
She concluded: “I’d urge anyone to seek advice if it starts going pink and hot to the touch.
“Draw a line around it and go and seek some advice.”
Despite looking similar to the much more dangerous black widows, false widows are relatively harmless.
Their venom is not very potent and the most extreme effects from bites are most likely the result of a secondary infection if the wound is not kept clean, according to the National History Museum.
Besides feeding on pest insects like flies, their silk is being developed to make specialist clothing such as bullet-proof vests and their venom can be used in pain relief.
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Jan Beccaloni, Curator of Arachnida and Myriapoda, said: “During my time at the Natural History Museum I have, not surprisingly, met many people who are scared of spiders.
“That’s a great pity because spiders are awesome creatures which are sadly misunderstood.”
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