Can a common house spider in the UK kill a person?

The title looks a bit odd because most people consider a common house spider in the UK as being benign. Some people think that they are quite cute and certainly not dangerous. However, a story in the newspaper yesterday indicates that very rarely a UK spider can kill a fit young man.

It seems, to me, to turn on whether the spider has strong enough jaws to pierce human skin and the following spiders in the UK have those jaws:

  • False widow
  • The Tube Web Spider
  • The Woodlouse Spider
  • The Money spider
  • The Walnut Orb-Weaver Spider
  • The Wasp Spider
  • The Cross Spider
  • The Cupboard Spider.

As soon as you introduce the possibility that a spider can break a person’s skin with their bite you also introduce the possibility of infection. That’s the point. And sadly, a teenager was killed by a suspected spider bite. Earlier, another student living in the same house had been bitten by a spider and had to attend A&E.

Harry Bolton
Harry Bolton. Photo: JustGiving.

Harry Bolton, 19, was found dead in his bedroom at a student house in Hull. He had been bitten by a spider four days earlier. He was in his second year at Hull University. We don’t know the species of spider concerned but, on my assessment, it must have been one of those listed above.

Money spider
Rare money spider. Image in public domain.

He had not replied to text messages. His fellow housemates received no response when they knocked on his door. They called security who broke the door down.

He was found on his bed and paramedics were called. They spotted an infected wound on his back about the size of a £1 coin.

Apparently, Bolton had said about four days earlier that he had been bitten by a spider and he wasn’t feeling well. His colleagues told him to go to A&E. He went with a high temperature and a high heart rate.

They did some tests and discovered some inflammation, but nothing was flagged up indicating a serious risk to his health.

He discharged himself and said that he would go home to bed and come back for a check-up the next day. The next morning was the last time that his housemates saw him.

At his inquest, the coroner said that he had died of sepsis due to an acute chest infection which was linked to the spider bite causing the wound on his back.

It looks as though the wound became infected which led to sepsis which is blood poisoning. It’s a very dangerous disease.

The other student, also bitten by a spider, took a different course of action. He said that the bite hurt a bit and a few days later he could not move his neck. He went to A&E and was told to take paracetamol. Puss was removed from his spider bite wound. He called his GP and asked for antibiotics. That was the key moment in his survival perhaps.

The antibiotics cleared up the bacterial infection and resolved the health problem.

The students claimed that there was a spider infestation problem in their house, but pest controllers concluded that there was nothing abnormal about insects in their home.

The story, in The Times concerned me somewhat because I had never considered spiders to be dangerous in the UK. There are not dangerous per se but indirectly they can be as illustrated.

The important lesson is that bacterial infections at the site of wounds need to be tackled with promptly antibiotics. The same applies to cat bite wounds incidentally. Any bite which breaks skin can seriously harm a person if left untreated.

Below are some more articles on insects.

Leave a Comment

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful
follow it link and logo

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

At heart this site is about ANTHROPOCENTRISM meaning a human-centric world.

Post Category: Insects > spiders