A mother-of-four has been left in too much pain to hold her own children after a horrific reaction to a false widow spider bite.
Carol Veitch, 45, was bitten more than a year ago but is still in too much pain to hug her five-year-old son Paul before he heads off to school each morning.
Mrs Veitch was cleaning her Harrogate home, which she shares with husband Richard, 51, when she felt a bite on her ankle.
Unable to find the culprit, or a visible mark, she concluded it must have been skin irritation caused by the hot summer weather.
But two days later her calf and ankle had visibly swollen and she was exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
Mrs Veitch said: “I was coughing and couldn’t breathe. I went to the doctor and he told me that I had a chest infection and bronchitis.
“While there I got him to check my leg. I was in a terrible state so they put me on steroids”
Just days after she first visited the Church Avenue Surgery in Harrogate, Mrs Veitch found the false widow spider trapped in her bath tub.
She said: “I took the spider to the doctor and we got it identified by the local environmental health department. The doctor said my symptoms were typical of a false widow bite.”
“The doctor was shocked because none had been sighted in Harrogate at the time – the nearest case had been in Manchester.”
Over the following eight weeks Mrs Veitch’s condition became worse, with sores and swelling developing across her arms and face.
Despite treatment with medication, the sores are still so painful that direct physical contact leaves her in agony.
Mrs Veitch said: “I would love to give Paul a cuddle before he heads off to school, but I can’t, because my skin is too sore.
“I can’t face going swimming with my kids because it looks like I have leprosy. If I was stood next to someone who looked like me I would be terrified.
“I can’t go out or show my arms because it’s an embarrassment. My face has changed because it swelled up so much. I’m completely covered in sores.”
Mrs Veitch had no fear of spiders before she was bitten but is now so scared of them that she is afraid to leave the house.
She said her newly-developed arachnophobia is a form of post traumatic stress disorder.
She said: “I can’t sleep because I’m terrified one will come into the bedroom. We found a common house spider in the living room last week and I didn’t sleep for two nights.
“If I see one on television I’ll have a huge panic attack and leave the room crying.”
Mrs Veitch’s husband, Richard, 51, has taken time off from his job as a construction foreman to care for his wife.
She said: “It’s had a massive effect on my marriage because I used to be so independent and now I rely on him for so much – but he’s been brilliant.”
Mrs Veitch, who has three sons named Paul, five, Nathan, 23, and Jamie, 26, and a daughter named Amber, 15, now attends regular therapy sessions at Windsor House, Harrogate, to help her overcome her new-found fear.
She said Paul has also developed arachnophobia due to being traumatised by his mother’s illness.
Mrs Veitch said: “I’ve terrified him. If he’s in the car with his dad and he sees even a tiny spider he will go hysterical. I can’t even cuddle him to make it better.
“If he see’s anything move he’ll jump to attention and try to protect me. He’s so brave.
“If he sees a creepy-crawly he will yell to me ‘don’t look’ until Richard has moved it away.”
Animal experts have stressed that the chances of being bitten by a false widow are incredibly low with no more than 10 spider bites being reported each year in the UK.
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