MY POISONOUS SPIDER BITE IN IRELAND

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My Poisonous Spider Bite in Ireland

Irish Spider Bite: Travel Horror Story

I received my first-ever poisonous spider bite in the middle of my 8-week solo trip through Europe. I have never been too fond of going to the doctor. I prefer to just assume that things will heal on their own! Unfortunately, with a poisonous spider bite, that isn’t the case. Here is the horror story of how I ignored my spider bite for two weeks and continued traveling as if nothing was wrong, when in reality, I was on the verge of having sepsis.

Wait- Ireland Has Poisonous Spiders?!

Hate to break it to you, but yes, it does. I think of Ireland as the whimsical, verdant, fairyland place where dreams are born, but unfortunately, spiders are also born there. Let me set the scene: a coastal town on the Western side of Ireland, called Strandhill. I was staying in a tiny hostel right next to the beach. During my 8 week trip that summer of 2015, I traveled around Ireland for four weeks. I stayed in Strandhill for three days, celebrating my 22nd birthday solo, and incurred the spider bite on my second night there.

This particular spider clearly had it out for me. Upon arrival to this hostel, I noticed a squashed spider on the door of the room I was about to check in to. I was quite happy to see the dead spider, I even made fun of its corpse (MISTAKE!). I thought I would escape unscathed. On the morning I was leaving Strandhill, I noticed a bite on the inner thigh of my left leg. I didn’t think much of it. This was at the end of my month-long stay in Ireland, and I only had a few more nights in Dublin before flying to Scotland. I checked into my hostel in Dublin that night and felt a scratch in my throat. I’d already booked a non-refundable day-trip to Belfast for the following day, and so I told myself, there’s NO WAY I’m getting sick.

 Beautiful beach town of Strandhill, Ireland. I did not anticipate a spider bite in such a peaceful place!

Beautiful beach town of Strandhill, Ireland. I did not anticipate a spider bite in such a peaceful place!

Missed My Trip to Belfast Being Sick as A Dog

The next day I woke up with my throat so swollen it was nearly closed. I had a fever. I was sweating profusely. I stayed in my 6-bed female dorm all day sleeping, taking medicine, and drinking water. I didn’t think about the bite at all. Just blamed it on the universe not wanting me to get to Belfast. My flight to Scotland was the next day, and although I was still very sick, I caught my flight. I was able to visit Glasgow and Edinburgh without too much discomfort from my sickness, and from there I flew to Gdańsk, Poland.

Sweltering Heat of Poland Meets Spider Bite

I arrived to Poland about a week after I had gotten bitten. The bite had become bulbous and pink. I thought it was gross, but the pain hadn’t reached a level where it bothered me enough to consider going to the doctor. So I continued traveling and made it to Warsaw. Now, this was in August, and the temperature in Poland around that time was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I was sweating in every nook and cranny. Walking around the entire city all day long, I started noticing that my left leg was hurting. I began limping to offset some of my weight from the leg. That night, I woke up suddenly, feeling wetness on the bed between my legs.

Warning: this isn’t pretty. It turns out the bite had burst, like a popped bubble. There was blood everywhere. I didn’t know what to do! I got out of bed, dragging my leg behind me because taking a step felt like being stabbed, and I limped out to reception. The receptionist barely spoke English. Worse than that, when I asked him for a First-Aid Kit, he told me they didn’t have one! #badreview. I went into the bathroom and tried to clean it and stop the blood. I waited until the next morning until I was finally able to limp to the store to get some band-aids.

 A square in Gdansk, Poland. I was experiencing discomfort with my bite, but not enough to keep me from exploring the city.

A square in Gdansk, Poland. I was experiencing discomfort with my bite, but not enough to keep me from exploring the city.

Why Hadn't I Gone To The Doctor Yet?

I was too stubborn. I wanted to continue traveling and I did not want to believe that something was seriously wrong. So I hopped on a bus and continued to Kraków. The hostel I stayed at had rooms with three-level bunk-beds, which I’d never seen before, or since. That night before I went to bed, I decided to peek under the band-aid at the bite, which I’d been refusing to do. When I lifted it up, I was met with the wonderful sight of a flesh-eating wound!

I got up from bed right then and went to reception to ask for help. The receptionist didn’t speak English well. I googled how to say “spider bite” in Polish and asked her to contact the local hospitals to see which had doctors that spoke English. It was almost 10pm and all of the hospitals were closed except for the emergency room, which was on the other side of town. I decided to wait until morning.

 I would have enjoyed my week in Scotland much more were it not for being deathly ill from my infected bite.

I would have enjoyed my week in Scotland much more were it not for being deathly ill from my infected bite.

Healing My Irish Spider Bite

I was so lucky to find a hospital the following morning that not only accepted me as a traveler, but charged me absolutely nothing for the visit. The doctor was an old Polish man who sat me down and inspected my wound disapprovingly, scolding me for having waited so long to get help. He told me that if I had waited any longer I could have gotten sepsis. As it was the infection had formed an open cesspool that was eating away my skin (sorry for the imagery!).

He wrote me a prescription for antibiotics to take by mouth and also gel to put on the bite. I was amazed that the treatment only cost me 8 euros. It would have been a fortune for an Urgent Care or hospital visit in the States!

For the next few weeks I continued traveling through Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. I had to apply fresh bandages and gel to the bite twice a day. Gradually it healed and I could walk again without pain. All that remains of it now is a scar. 

 Wroclaw, Poland. By the time I made it to this city I had treated the infection, but was still walking with a limp. 

Wroclaw, Poland. By the time I made it to this city I had treated the infection, but was still walking with a limp. 

The Lesson I Learned from Mr. Irish Spider

This was the first and only time I have ever gotten an infected spider bite. I should have taken care of it sooner rather than later. It can be very intimidating having health issues when you’re traveling because you don’t know how well you’ll be able to communicate your symptoms to someone who may not speak a mutual language. I put it off also because I worried about affording a doctor’s visit, although if you have purchased travel insurance (which you should!) it will be taken care of. Even without insurance the price of a doctor’s visit in Europe is not expensive.

I should have known that something was wrong from when I got sick so quickly in Dublin, when my body was fighting off the infection. It wasn’t obvious at first that the bite was from a poisonous spider, but once I started having swelling, pain, and even blood coming out of it, I should’ve rushed like the wind to the hospital. Never procrastinate handling your health, even if it’s inconvenient for your travel plans. You don’t want to be like me, limping around with an infected spider bite on my inner thigh!

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 Writer of this article is Heather, 24, co-founder of the Female Travel Collective.  She used to live in California, NYC, and Hawaii, and is currently traveling. Follow her along on her  Instagram !

Writer of this article is Heather, 24, co-founder of the Female Travel Collective.  She used to live in California, NYC, and Hawaii, and is currently traveling. Follow her along on her Instagram!

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