Are Tarantulas Harmful to Humans
Contrary to the myth that tarantula venom is deadly, tarantulas are not harmful to humans. A bite may cause pain similar to a bee sting

Most people are afraid of tarantulas because they are large, hairy, and dangerous-looking, and because of the myth that their toxic venom is deadly. However, tarantulas are not harmful to humans.

Tarantula bites may feel similar to a bee sting, causing pain at the site of the bite. Very rarely, a tarantula bite can cause an allergic reaction that may become life-threatening, if the person has an anaphylactic episode in response to the bite.

Are tarantulas poisonous?

The mouth part of the tarantula, called chelicerae, contains glands that produce venom, which is delivered through the fangs that work like a hypodermic needle.

However, tarantula venom is only mildly toxic and not poisonous enough to kill most humans. The sting may irritate the mucous membranes, causing symptoms such as pain and redness. Exposure to the respiratory tract can also lead to intense itching due to histamine release. 

In rare cases, hives or contact dermatitis may occur due to allergic reactions. Very rarely, the affected part may become gangrenous.

What happens if a tarantula bites you?

If you are bitten by a tarantula, symptoms may include:

  • Mild to severe pain
  • Redness and warmness
  • Swelling
  • Intense pruritus (itching)
  • Bumps or vesicles

If you are allergic to tarantula venom, though rare, the following symptoms may occur:

What should you do if you are bitten by a tarantula?

Pain from a tarantula bite can last for several hours, whereas itching and irritation may subside fairly quickly. If you experience an allergic reaction or if the spider has bitten a child, seek medical help immediately.

Treatment for tarantula bites is mostly conservative, consisting of wound care and pain and inflammation control:

  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Ice the area to relieve swelling and pain
  • Elevate the affected limb
  • Take pain relievers if the pain is severe
  • Use topical steroids or systemic antihistamines to relieve itching

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Medically Reviewed on 1/20/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Goldenberg A. Are tarantulas dangerous. Scout Life. https://scoutlife.org/outdoors/wilderness-first-aid-qa/37890/are-tarantulas-dangerous/

Mount Sinai. Tarantula spider bite. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/poison/tarantula-spider-bite

KidsHealth. A Tarantula Bit Me. https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/tarantula.html

Kong EL, Hart KK. Tarantula Spider Toxicity. [Updated 2021 May 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557667/