How Do You Know If Its A Spider Bite?

10 signs you have a spider bite — and what to do if you have one

  • There are more than 40,000 different types of spiders in the world.
  • Itching, redness, and swelling are among the most common signs of a spider bite.
  • Spider bites should be cleaned with warm water and mild soap promptly to avoid infection.
  • In the case you’ve been bitten by a poisonous spider, visit the doctor immediately.

Even if you can’t see them, spiders are everywhere. The eight-legged arachnids can survive in almost any habitat and climate. At some point or another, you may encounter one of these creatures in your home or out in the wild. After all, the US National Library of Medicine reports that there are more than 40,000 kinds of spiders worldwide . Although spiders are generally afraid of humans, it’s not uncommon for the web-spinners to bite if they feel threatened.

The severity of your bite wound will vary depending on what type of spider bit you. Some spider bites are harmless, while others not so much. You will likely know right away if you have been bitten by a poisonous spider like a brown recluse spider or the infamous black widow spider. The bite and the surrounding area will be painful and will continue to feel worse with time.

This is just one of the signs of a poisonous spider bite. If you’ve been bitten by a spider and are experiencing breathing issues, stomach cramps, or pain, seek medical help right away, according to the Mayo Clinic . You should always get medical attention if you think you have a poisonous spider caused the bite.

But, for the most part, you won’t need to take a trip to the doctor for your spider bite unless you have any of the below symptoms. If you have a spider bite that’s not so bad, make sure to clean it out with warm water and mild soap. Once it’s been washed out, put a dab or two of antibiotic ointment on the bite and it should clear up within a few days. The Mayo Clinic also recommends elevating the area of your body where the bite is.

Here are the 10 signs of a spider bite.

You have pain near the bite.

This is one of the top signs that you have a poisonous spider bite. Pain from a black widow spider bite usually shows up about 60 minutes after the initial bite. The pain can make its way from the wound to your abdomen, back, or chest, according to the Mayo Clinic . A brown recluse spider bite will also bring about pain, but it’s a gradual process that usually takes about eight hours to rear its horns. Not all pain is harmful, though. A wolf spider bite will cause pain but is not toxic.

Over-the-counter pain relieving medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can also bring relief, according to the Mayo Clinic . Talk to your doctor before treating the wound.

You can’t stop sweating.

Profuse and heavy sweating can be a sign of a poisonous spider bite. Sweating occurs when the venom from the bite starts to impact the nervous system. One study conducted by researchers in Albania found that 56.9% of people with a spider bite experienced sweating. In some patients, sweating started within 30 minutes after the bite where in others it was 60 minutes or more.

You can’t stop itching a certain area of your body.

Tarantulas may look scary, but the hairy spiders are not poisonous. Tarantula bites, however, can cause an allergic reaction, according to US News & World Report . As a result, the bite and surrounding area may become itchy. This is a common sign of a spider bite.

A rash starts to develop.

A study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that a bite from poisonous brown recluse spider can cause a rash or ulcer to form in the bite spot. This is not true of all spider bites, but if you notice this symptom, visit a doctor right away.

You feel hot or have the chills.

If you have a spider bite and don’t treat it fast, it may trigger a fever or chills. A rise in your body temperature can mean that you were bitten by a poisonous spider. A spider’s venom can destroy the tissue in the area of the bite and trigger your body into a fever, according to Healthline . Chills occur when the body starts to fight off an infection.

You are experiencing swelling

Venom from a spider can cause the bite to swell. This is a common sign of a spider bite, especially if you are also experiencing pain and redness. You should place ice or a wet compress on the impacted area to help reduce the amount of swelling, according to the US National Library of Medicine .

You develop a blister.

Most spiders in the US won’t typically cause blisters as the result of a bite, but brown recluse spiders will. To treat the infection, clean the blister and surrounding area with warm water and mild soap. Apply an antibiotic cream. This will help fight against infection. Make an appointment to see your doctor, especially if you notice the blister and surrounding area starting to turn blue, purple or black, according to WebMD .

Your muscles feel achy and are cramping.

Muscle spasms and cramps can occur if you have been bitten by a poisonous spider, like the black widow spider, according to MedBroadcast. The venom can also cause your muscles to ache. This usually begins in the area of the bite and occurs in 30 to 60 minutes after the bite.

See also:  When To Go In For A Spider Bite?

You feel queasy.

Black widow and brown recluse spider bites can cause nausea or vomiting in some people, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center . This reaction will not usually happen if you were bitten by a non-poisonous spider.

You experience more severe symptoms like seizures, blood in your urine, and jaundice.

Other severe spider bite reactions can include kidney failure and can cause you to fall into a coma, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center . This is why it is important to seek medical help right away if you think you may have been bitten by a poisonous spider, like a brown recluse or black widow spider.

SEE ALSO: 5 reasons why you’re so scared of spiders

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Do You Have A Spider Bite? These 7 Photos Can Help You Tell

And here’s when you should see a doctor.

When it comes to spider bites, there’s literally one person ever for whom it’s been a great experience (what up, Spiderman?). and he’s fictional.

For the rest of us non-superheroes, getting bit by an eight-legged critter is something we’ll do anything to avoid. And with good reason: At best, getting bitten by a spider is an icky, slightly painful experience. But, at worst, it can be a life-threatening nightmare.

The good news: Out of the 3,000 or so types of spiders in the U.S., only a handful are known to bite, and of those, only about three are venomous and poisonous spiders and can put your life at risk, according to research published in American Family Physician. And if you’re wondering how long spider bites take to heal? While certainly itchy and annoying, most bites heal up within a week (other than brown recluse and hobo spider bites, which can unfortunately take weeks or much longer to heal, depending on whether you develop an infection).

But if you don’t happen to be a spider expert, how do you know if your spider bite is cause for serious concern—or how to make the itching and burning stop? The Instagram photos below (all reviewed by experts) will give you an idea of what different types of spider bites look like—and what you should do if you spot one on your bod.

A post shared by Arturo (@warmloaf) on Jan 6, 2018 at 2:15pm PST

Sometimes, spiders leave behind two distinct puncture holes right next to each other—but unless you actually see the spider do the dirty deed, it’s hard to know if it was caused by an arachnid or some other biting bug.

In fact, the vast majority of «spider bites» are actually bites from other insects like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes; are a rash from an allergic reaction; or are skin abscesses from an infection, says Justin Arnold, D.O., assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the associate medical director of the Alabama Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama.

The symptoms are often similar, too—pain, swelling, itching, and redness—so it’s an easy mistake to make. In fact, even spider experts and medical professionals have a hard time differentiating bug bites from spider bites just from how they look, he adds.

«Many people don’t recall an injury or specific bite and hold a common belief that a spider must have bitten them without them knowing,» he says. «In a majority of the cases that we see, a spider was never seen by patient and is not responsible for their infection.»

A post shared by @ yuckygross on Dec 19, 2016 at 8:11am PST

While poisonous bites are rare, any bite—spider or otherwise—can turn serious if it becomes infected, says Arnold. There are three main complications that can arise from bites: cellulitis, blisters, and swelling, says Arnold.

When a spider bite turns into cellulitis—a common (although painful) skin infection—a rash begins to spread around the wound, and the skin becomes painful and hot to the touch.

Another common reaction to many spider bites is to get «weeping» blisters at the site (they look puffy and fluid-filled). Small blisters on their own, with no other symptoms, don’t necessarily need special care. But if a blister opens, it becomes at risk for infection, says Arnold, so don’t try to pop them! If you think you may have an infection at the bite site, whether from cellulitis or open blisters, it’s best to have your doctor take a look.

Swelling is another very common symptom of insect or spider bites. Even though the swelling can get quite pronounced it’s not necessarily a problem, as long as it goes down within a few days. But if the swelling doesn’t go down, gets significantly worse, or is accompanied by other symptoms, it’s time to get medical attention, says Arnold.

A post shared by Helen Harding (@hchharding) on Jan 27, 2018 at 4:21pm PST

The two most common spider bites are from house spiders, specifically the jumping spider and the wolf spider. While it can be scary to be bitten by any spider, these bites normally aren’t any more painful than a bee sting and shouldn’t cause problems beyond some redness, swelling, and itching, Arnold says.

Treat these at home by washing the site with soap and water, using cold compresses, and taking an ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling, he adds.

A post shared by Caitlin Miller Calder (@y2caitlin) on Apr 3, 2014 at 8:16am PDT

Of all of the spiders, black widows pose the greatest health threat to Americans, according to Rick Vetter, Ph.D., a spider expert in the department of entomology at the University of California, Riverside. Their bite is extremely painful and, while an antivenin (a.k.a. anti-venom) exists now, before it was discovered, about 5 percent of bitten people died.

Think you can ID a black widow bite on sight? Not so fast: The actual bite looks a lot like any other spider bite. However, they do tend to become more swollen and red than your general household spider bite, he says.

Black widow spiders are tough to identify, as well. Only female black widows have the characteristic red hourglass-shaped markings on their backs. Male and immature black widows have tan and white stripes, Vetter says.

Because these types of bites are so serious, if you strongly suspect you were bitten by a black widow or you develop muscle cramping, abdominal and chest pain, high blood pressure, a racing heart, and/or vomiting within two hours of a bite, go to the ER immediately, Arnold says.

See also:  What Does A Spider Bite Look Like On A Toddler?

A post shared by Ashley Parsons (@ashley_parsons) on Jul 13, 2015 at 10:00am PDT

The brown recluse (also known as the fiddleback spider or violin spider) is one of the most venomous spiders in America, but they are limited to very specific geographic regions—if you don’t live in one of these places, it’s highly unlikely you need to worry about this type of bite, Vetter says. (Check out this map to see if you’re in the danger zone.)

And despite what you may have heard, even where brown recluses are present, they rarely bite, he adds. To identify a brown recluse, look for six eyes arranged in pairs. (Although getting close enough to see the eye pattern on a spider sounds, frankly, terrifying.)

Brown recluse bites do happen though, and when they do, they are often described by «sharp burning pain,» Arnold explains. Within several hours, the bite area becomes discolored and forms an ulcer that can takes several weeks to heal. In addition to the wound, individuals can also develop fevers, muscle aches, and in rare cases, severe anemia as a result of the venom.

Start by treating any bite at home with cold compresses and an antibiotic cream, but if you start to show severe symptoms, including a lot of swelling, increased pain, fever, spreading rash or other sign of infection, get medical attention immediately, he adds. There isn’t an antivenin, but they can treat the symptoms and manage the infection.

A post shared by Evan (@eplevinski) on Sep 13, 2013 at 8:52am PDT

The hobo spider is actually a pretty common venomous house spider in the U.S., but despite some scary media reports, they’re not aggressive and will only bite if provoked, according to the U.S. Forest Service. In addition, about half of hobo spider bites are «dry,» meaning they contain no venom, the service adds.

If you do receive a venomous bite, within a few hours it will become red and hard, similar to a mosquito bite, and within a day or two will develop blisters. After the blisters open, a scab typically forms along with a rash that often looks like a target or bull’s eye.

Because these wounds can become necrotic (as in, infected to the point they start killing surrounding tissue) and can last for years in some cases, you should see a doctor immediately, Arnold says. There isn’t an antivenin but they can treat the symptoms and manage any infection with antibiotics.

Hobo spiders can be hard to identify, according to the Forest Service. They are large and often have chevron-type markings on their backs, but these won’t be visible on darker-skinned adult spiders, which is why it’s important to get any bite checked out if it starts to show signs of infection or you see a target forming on your skin, Arnold says.

A post shared by Chrissy (@porcelainbones84) on Mar 24, 2013 at 11:47am PDT

Tarantulas may look big and scary, but most of the North American varieties are pretty chill. And even while the bite itself can be painful, the venom is fairly benign and likely won’t cause long-term issues, Arnold says. Like most spider bites, tarantula bites can cause some swelling, itching, and irritation.

However, he adds, tarantulas also have the ability to flick hairs off of their body and into your skin, which can be very irritating and painful. And some people are allergic to tarantula venom, which can make the bite even more inflamed, according to the National Institutes of Medicine.

Most of the time, it’s fine to try treating these at home by washing the site, applying ice, and taking ibuprofen, he says. But if you find yourself having a more extreme reaction, including symptoms like rapid heart rate or difficulty breathing, get to the emergency room.

www.womenshealthmag.com

Spider Bites: What You Need to Know

Are They Poisonous?

Spiders are blamed for all kinds of things that turn out to be skin infections or some other bug’s fault. Most don’t even have fangs long enough to break your skin. When they do bite, they’re typically harmless. In the U.S., only the black widow and brown recluse have venom strong enough to really hurt you. And their bites are rarely deadly to humans.

What Do Bites Look Like?

They’re pretty much just like an insect bite. For the most part, you can’t tellВ a spider bit you just from your symptoms. You’ll get a little bump on your skin. It might get red, itchy, and swell up a bit. It might hurt, but no more than a bee sting and usually not for more than an hour or so. That’s basically it — unless you’re bitten by a venomous spider.

Black Widows

This spider’s telltale sign is the red hourglass shape on the bottom of its big, round abdomen — the back part of the body. Black widows are shiny and black and about half an inch long. You can find them anywhere in North America, but mostly they’re in the southern and western areas in the U.S. They like quiet, out-of-the-way places like closets, sheds, garages, and woodpiles.

What’s a Black Widow Bite Like?

The bite feels like a pinprick, so you may not notice it. The first signs might be small, red marks with some swelling. Within an hour, it’ll hurt a little more, and the pain might spread to your back, belly, and chest. You might have stomach cramps, and your belly might feel a little stiff. You may also sweat a lot. In serious cases, you can have trouble breathing, along with a fast heart rate, nausea, and vomiting. The area around the bite may continue to get redder and more swollen.

Brown Recluse

People sometimes say to look for the small violin shape on the part of the body where the legs attach, but that’s easy to get wrong. Check the eyes instead. Most spiders have eight eyes in two rows of four. Here, look for six eyes: two in front, and two on each side. They live mostly in the southern Midwest and parts of the South. They like to stay indoors, tucked away deep in the stuff in your basement or attic.

What’s a Brown Recluse Bite Like?

You might feel a little sting at first, but it’ll hurt more over the next 8 hours. You also might see a small white blister that has a red ring around it, like a bullseye. Sometimes, the skin in the middle of the bite can turn blue or purple, and you may have an open sore that gets bigger for up to 10 days. It doesn’t happen often, but some people also have other symptoms like fever, chills, rash, and an upset stomach.

See also:  How A Spider Bite Look?

Tarantulas

Their big, hairy look is much worse than their bite. At least this is true for the ones in the U.S., where you find them mostly in the Southwest. Make no mistake, their bite hurts, sometimes for up to a week. It might also get red and warm, but that’s the worst of it. Some types of tarantulas can also flick fine barbed hairs from their belly at you. If these stick in your skin, they can cause itching, swelling, and irritation.

False Black Widow

These look a lot like black widows, but they don’t have the red hourglass. And their color ranges from purplish-brown to black. They like to cozy up in homes along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts. Pain from their bite can get worse in the first hour and you may get some blisters around it. It might make you feel generally sick with a headache or an upset stomach, but this will pass within a few days.

Hobo Spider

At one point, these were thought to be really dangerous, like the brown recluse. But the past 15 years of research says they’re mostly harmless. You won’t get much more than some redness and mild pain, and maybe some swelling. They’re found in the Pacific Northwest, usually in places like woodpiles and retaining walls. They often have a light stripe running down the middle of their bodies.В

What to Do

The first steps are the same for all spider bites, even those from a black widow or brown recluse. Clean the area with soap and water and put on some antibiotic cream. Then take a cloth and wet it with cold water or wrap it around some ice and put that on the bite. If you were bitten on your arm or leg, raise it up. You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and an antihistamine for swelling.

When to See a Doctor

Get checked out right away if you have symptoms beyond the bite, like serious pain in your belly, cramps, throwing up, or trouble breathing. You also should see your doctor if you have an open sore or a bullseye mark, or if the bite gets worse after 24 hours. Look out for things like pain around the bite getting worse, redness that’s spreading, and fluid coming from the bite. If you can do it safely, take the spider with you, even if it’s dead.

Treatment for Black Widow Bites

You may get prescription drugs to ease the pain and relax your muscles. There’s an antivenom for black widows, but it’s rarely used because some people have a serious reaction to it. And it’s almost never really needed. It’s saved for more serious bites in the very young, very old, or people who have other health issues.В

Treatment for Brown Recluse Bites

This is mostly about managing the wound so it doesn’t get infected. If you have a bump and redness, your doctor might recommend antihistamines or a cream to help with swelling and itchiness. For an open sore, you need to clean it daily and use antibiotic cream. From there, you should keep an eye on things, especially for symptoms beyond the bite, like fever or chills.

Allergic Reactions

It’s not very common, but just like with bee stings, some people are allergic to spider bites. Watch for swelling in your face or mouth, trouble talking or swallowing, tightness in your chest, or trouble breathing. If you feel any of these symptoms or see them in someone you’re with, get help right away.

How to Prevent a Spider Bite

If you’re poking around in woodpiles, sheds, attics, and other areas, wear long sleeves and a hat, and tuck your pants into your socks. Make sure to shake out work gloves, boots, and clothes you haven’t used in a while, because spiders can hide in them, too. And don’t keep rocks, lumber, or firewood near your house. Inside, don’t put your bed directly against the wall, and don’t store things under it.

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Mayo Clinic: “Spider Bites,” “Spider Bites: First Aid.”

PestWorld.org: “Spider Bites: Symptoms, Signs & Spider Bite Treatment.”

KidsHealth: “First Aid: Spider Bites.”

University of California Riverside: “Brown Recluse ID.”

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health: “Venomous Spiders.”

Merck Manual, Professional Version: “Spider Bites.”

American Family Physician: “Common Spider Bites.”

Medscape: “Medically Significant Spider Bites: Keys to Diagnosis and Treatment.”

University of Florida Health: “Tarantula Spider Bite.”

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences: “False Black Widow Spider.”

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Spider Bites.”

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on August 05, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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