A Swedish golfer has told how she used a tee to try to extract venom from her leg after being bitten by a dangerous spider during a qualifying tournament in Canberra.
The Swedish Golf Federation reported on their website how 24-year-old Daniela Holmqvist saw what she believed was a redback spider on her lower leg after she felt a sharp pain above her left ankle.
An official for Golf Australia confirmed the incident was reported during the pre-qualifying tournament at the Federal Golf Club in Canberra's inner south on Tuesday morning.
Seeing her leg swell up, Holmqvist did not seek medical attention but instead grabbed a golf tee from her bag, pierced her skin and squeezed out as much venom as possible.
"A clear fluid came out," she said. "It wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever done but I had to get as much of it out of me as possible."
The Swedish federation added that, after the incident took place at the fourth hole, an unfazed Holmqvist went on to finish her round with officials monitoring her progress.
But an insects experts with the CSIRO said the bite could well have been from a different, less venomous variety of spider, or may have been from a small, less-mature redback.
“Playing golf is not the sort of activity where I would have thought you would be exposed to redbacks because they don’t really come out and wander around – they hide,” technical officer Kim Pullen said.
Mr Pullen said the redback’s venom wasn’t particularly quick-acting, and was usually only fatal for children or people in poor health. He said the venom would give severe cold-like symptoms, including a general feeling of soreness through the body.
He said Holmqvist’s approach to treatment – cutting it open – is not a good way to deal with a bite.
“It wouldn’t be a recommended treatment – for a start you could introduce other germs. The amount of venom would be so small there’s no way you would be able to see it,” Mr Pullen said.
“There’s a good anti-venom available, and if you are bitten by a redback the best thing is to go straight to a hospital and get an anti-venom applied.
"Redbacks can kill you, so it's not something to be taken lightly."
Holmqvist finished the qualifying event for the ISPS Handa Australian Open in Canberra with a round of 74, just two shots shy of qualification.
Golf Australia Championships manager Therese Magdulski was at the tournament on the day, and was surprised at hearing reports of the bite over the radio.
“On the day it was very unusual, and I must admit when I heard she was bitten by a redback I thought ‘oh my goodness’," Ms Magdulski said.
But, after seeking professional advice and speaking with Holmqvist, tournament officials said the only treatment required was an ice pack. A rules official also followed Homqvist for about two holes to ensure she was healthy enough to continue the round.
“She didn’t ask for anything else from us,” Ms Magdulski said.
"She certainly wasn't in any discomfort on the day."
Federal Golf Club general manager Scott Elias said they were used to kangaroos and the occasional brown snake on the course, but he'd never had someone bitten by a redback before.
“I was a bit surprised actually when I saw that," he said. "I think she did pretty well to recover and shoot a 74, to be honest."
The redback is related to the black widow spider and so-called because of its red stripe on the back of its black abdomen. It is common in Canberra and in hot, dry areas of Australia.
According to the University of Melbourne, 250 people are treated for bites each year but no deaths have been reported since the discovery of an antidote in 1955.
The most venomous spider in Australia is the Sydney funnel web, which is mostly found on the NSW coast between the central coast and Wollongong.