False widow spider bite forces mother to have huge abscess removed7 min read

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A mother from South Wales has revealed how she was hospitalised by a false widow spider bite and had an oozing ‘golf ball-sized abscess’ pulled from a gaping hole in her armpit.

Louise Edwards was clearing out the summerhouse at the bottom of her garden in Barry, South Wales, on August 19 when the spider sank its fangs into her after hitching a ride on a cushion she carried under her left arm.

Initially brushing it off as a minor irritant, medical rep Louise popped a couple of antihistamines and thought nothing more of it.

Mother-of-one Louise Edwards, 49, was bitten clearing out the summerhouse at the bottom of her garden in Barry, South Wales, on August 19

Mother-of-one Louise Edwards, 49, was bitten clearing out the summerhouse at the bottom of her garden in Barry, South Wales, on August 19

Within 48 hours the pain got more severe forcing the 49-year-old to take painkillers to tackle the burning sensation in her armpit and the shooting pains down her arm.

Days later the bite had ballooned to the size of a golf ball and mum-of-one Louise went to an out of hours doctor who sent her to hospital.

There doctors said Louise had been bitten perilously close to an artery by a false widow spider – whose bites produce necrosis of the flesh.

Louise had a grisly golf-ball sized abscess removed from the wound, leaving her with a gaping inch-and-a-half hole in her arm.

Doctors removed the capsule of the abscess, which was the size of a golf ball

She was left with a gaping inch-and-a-half hole in her arm

Louise Edwards’ bite led to the mother-of one from Wales needing a grisly golf-ball sized abscess removed from the wound, leaving her with a gaping inch-and-a-half hole in her armpit

A month on from her ordeal, and after taking 87 antibiotic tablets to tackle the infection, Louise is urging anyone bitten by a creepy crawly to monitor the bite and seek medical attention if it becomes inflamed.

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?’ she said.

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.’

Louise, who lives with 11-year-old son Cadel Edwards-Davies, was re-arranging furniture in her garden’s summerhouse and said she felt the spider sink its fangs into her as she carried a cushion tucked under her arm.

Louise 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,’ she added.

‘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,’ she said.

A false widow spider (pictured) similar to the one that bit Louise Edwards

A false widow spider (pictured) similar to the one that bit Louise Edwards

Louise Edwards was clearing out the summerhouse at the bottom of her garden (pictured) when the spider sank its fangs into her

Louise Edwards was clearing out the summerhouse at the bottom of her garden (pictured) when the spider sank its fangs into her

The false widow spider had hitched a ride on a cushion she carried under her left arm

The false widow spider had hitched a ride on a cushion she carried under her left arm

What is the false widow spider and what to do if you get bitten

False widow spiders are distinctive for their shiny, black flesh, bulbous bodies, thick legs and skull-like patterns.

Millions of false widows, Britain’s most venomous spider, have been found across the UK and the population is believed to be growing.

The species has a brown bulbous abdomen with cream markings that look like a skull. They have long legs and can reach about 15mm in size.

Also known as steatoda nobilis, the spider is frequently confused for the black widow, which has deadly venom.

The false widow was first spotted in the UK in Torquay in 1879, and it is thought that it may have made its way to these shores from Madeira or the Canary Islands in a shipment of bananas.

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The Natural History Museum says that warmer summers mean the spider is spreading northwards through the UK, having previously been found mainly in southern England.

IF YOU GET BITTEN…

The first thing you should do is wash the area thoroughly with soap and water to prevent infection – and don’t scratch, as if you break the skin there’s more chance for bacteria to get in.

Cover bites with a plaster and apply an antihistamine sting cream to calm any inflammation or itching. Any redness, pain or swelling should subside after three days.

Be alert to potential signs of infection, such as weeping blisters or painful swelling, that continue to get worse after a few days. If this happens, seek advice from your GP.

As the week went on fitness fanatic Louise, who attends bootcamp five times a week and regularly runs 10Ks, said the bite became irritated as it rubbed against the seatbelt during her daily commute and began to burn.

On August 21 Louise started getting shooting pains down her arm and when she examined the area she spotted two small puncture wounds from where the eight-legged terror had bitten her.

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.’

On August 23 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 says was the worst thing she could do.

‘That evening it looked like it had a little head on it and was going to pop. 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,’ she added.

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After the bite ballooned to the size of a golf ball, Louise visited an out-of-hours doctor on Bank Holiday Monday, August 26, who immediately referred her to University Hospital of Wales (UHW).

At the hospital Louise underwent blood tests to check infection marker levels and underwent a 10-minute procedure to scoop out the infected flesh. She was given a local anaesthetic.

‘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.

She said it took several days for the antibiotics to make a change and she was off work for three weeks.  

Fitness fanatic Louise was off work for three weeks following the bite and is considering having someone into the summer house to fumigate it thoroughly

Fitness fanatic Louise was off work for three weeks following the bite and is considering having someone into the summer house to fumigate it thoroughly

Louise said she knew the spiders were the culprit after recognising their distinctive markings when she spotted them in the summerhouse.

Louise 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.

‘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.’