Encountering a spider is not an ideal situation for most people. And for outdoor workers, including gardeners, farmers, construction workers and mail carriers, spiders can present an occupational hazard. With the United States being home to venomous arachnids such as the black widow, brown recluse and hobo spiders, the danger is real.
However, NIOSH notes that spiders are generally not aggressive, and bites tend to happen when a spider feels trapped or is unintentionally disturbed. For these reasons, it is important that workers know how to protect themselves and what actions to take if bitten.
Symptoms of a spider bite can range from mild to severe, NIOSH states. Mild symptoms include pain at the site of the bite, itching, muscle cramps and sweating. More serious symptoms include difficulty breathing, vomiting, fever and high blood pressure.
If you are bitten by a spider, NIOSH recommends taking the following steps:
- Do not panic. If the spider is still nearby, do your best to identify it.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water.
- Use an ice pack or cool, damp cloth to help reduce swelling. Keep the bite area elevated.
- Never try to remove venom.
- Contact your supervisor.
- Seek professional medical help.
To help prevent spider bites:
- Give your work clothes, shoes and equipment a thorough shake before use.
- If working near undisturbed piles of material outdoors – where spiders are known to reside – wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, as well as gloves and boots.
- Remove piles of debris from outdoor jobsites, and trim tall grasses.
- Keep outdoor clothing and equipment tightly sealed in plastic bags.
- Stay up to date with your tetanus boosters; spider bites can become infected with tetanus spores.