Feb. 15, 2013 — -- Swedish golfer Daniela Holmqvist couldn't afford a swing and a miss when what tournament officials believe was a redback spider, relative of the famed black widow, nipped her leg mid-tournament during the Women's Australian Open this week.
With the flourish of a focused pro, the Swedish Golf Federation reported, Holmqvist, 24, swatted the spider away, then used a golf tee to pierce her skin and squeeze out the venom.
"A clear fluid came out," she told Svensk Golf magazine. "It wasn't the prettiest thing I've ever done, but I had to get as much of it out of me as possible."
Or did she?
Dr. Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center, said not only do doctors not recommend people puncture themselves to remove the venom, but also that it's likely Holmqvist wasn't actually injected with poison.
"In her case, I'm confident it was really a dry bite," Spiller said. "There wasn't really any significant venom injected. ... What she got is serum."
Spiller has never dealt with redbacks, which are found in Australia, but has treated victims of black widow bites in the U.S., which he said are similar to redback spiders.
"Redbacks are perhaps a little more potent, but they're cousins and the mechanism of the venom is essentially the same mechanism," he said.
After five to 30 minutes, Spiller said, the venom causes muscles to involuntarily contract, leading to significant pain. Heart rate and blood pressure also increase and the abdomen can become rigid.
If the bite is serious, victims should take antivenom or muscle relaxers, Spiller said. Bites from black widows and redbacks are usually not deadly, but in rare cases they can lead to serious complications.
"The antivenom is remarkably effective if you get it early," Spiller said.
Redback bites occur more frequently in summer months, according to The Australian Museum, and more than 250 cases of redback bites receive antivenom each year.
Homqvist was followed by a rules official for two holes after the incident, but then decided she was comfortable continuing without the rules official monitoring her, a Golf Australia official said. She finished the golf round, but her score of 74 did not qualify her for the tournament.