Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Worthing Hospital, Southlands Hospital in Shoreham and St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, has recorded more than 200 spider bite incidents in the past five years, according to a study.
The study, by leading pest control experts Fantastic Services, revealed the trust to be the third highest spider bite hot spot in the country, with 216 incidents recorded.
While the trust did not record the type of spider causing the suspected bite, or the treatment given, stats showed 54 bites in 2014, 34 in 2015, 52 in 2016, 56 in 2017, and 20 last year, Fantastic Services said.
Ages of the patients ranged all the way from just a few months old to 91.
Mario Stanchev, pest control technician for Fantastic Services, said it was important to keep the stats in perspective.
“There are 55 million people living in England, the vast majority of which share their homes with spiders and never, ever have any issues,” he said.
“When we’re talking about incidents in the hundreds, it’s a very small amount of people in comparison with the general population and we don’t wish to spread panic and alarm.
“But at the same time, the figures prove that there can be unpleasant human interactions with our arachnid friends.
“And the stats also highlight some distinct regional hotspots. While many trusts said they’d handled just a handful of suspected spider bites, others had documented hundreds of cases in the last five years.
“To me, that potentially signals where the more dangerous spider populations are dwelling in England.”
Mr Stanchev added that it was important to remember that some of the cases could have involved patients who had been bitten by spiders abroad before seeking treatment in the UK. However, he said, responses to the study did indicate domestic bites.
The figures were uncovered by a series of Freedom of Information requests carried out by Fantastic Services, and come following fears that the black widow spider could take up residence in the UK.
In 2016, footage emerged of a black widow spider found in Atcham, Shropshire, believed to have hitched a ride in car parts from California.
Chesterfield NHS trust also reported an encounter between a 56-year-old woman and a black widow spider, though the details of any treatment were not released.
Mr Stanchev said: “Again, these cases sound dramatic but it’s vital we keep it in perspective by understanding how rare they are.
“If you are being overrun by spiders, an extermination involves removing both the spiders and the eggs from homes and business affected.
“Spiders often find comfort in the dark and quiet corners of man-made structures. They usually strive to avoid all contact with humans but one might end up near you somehow.
“Most are harmless but you never know if a bite would cause an allergic reaction. And of course, there are those that are actually venomous.
“And exterminator will look around your property to fully assess the situation. This way he can determine how to best deal with your spider problem.
“He or she will then spray the affected areas with a powerful insecticide which has a residual, long lasting effect.”
The UK is home to some 650 species of spider – many of which are harmless. But there is a small handful of UK arachnids - including the feared false widow – that can inflict a painful bite, Fantastic Services said.
Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust, headquartered in Chelmsford, reported the most spider bite related incidents, with 457 since 2013.
Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust – also in Essex – was second in the list, with 249.
Other trusts making up the top five were Torbay and South Devon, with 210, and Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with 188.
Some trusts also revealed details of treatments, with critters seeming to have crawled in nose and ear cavities, and one patient even having had his leg ‘amputated below the knee’ following an arachnid encounter.
To find out more, visit www.fantasticpestcontrol.co.uk/pest-profiles/spiders.