How Do You Know When You Have A Spider Bite?

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 Kind Of Spider Looks Like A Crab?

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.

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.

See also:  What Can You Spray On Spiders To Kill Them?

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.

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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Not Sure If You Have a Spider Bite? These Pictures Can Help You Figure It Out

Plus, exactly what you should do to treat them—from harmless spots to venomous bites.

It’s only natural to assume that you’d know when you’ve been bitten by a spider. After all, when you live through a huge fear, you’d think you’d be aware that your nightmare has just come true. Still, it’s 100 percent possible to notice a bite and have zero clue what kind of creepy insect it came from.

As a whole, spider bites don’t actually happen as much as people think. “Spiders get blamed for a lot of skin irritations that are not their fault,” explains Nancy Troyano, PhD, a board-certified medical entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control.

That said, spider bites can and do happen. Some are completely harmless—causing just a bit of redness and swelling—and heal up after just a couple of days, while other venomous bites can cause serious complications, especially if you don’t see a doctor right away.

But how can you know for sure if that bite you’re dealing with is from a spider—and a dangerous one, at that? We tapped a doctor and entomologists for tips on what to look for and rounded up Instagram photos (all reviewed by an expert) to give you an idea of what spider bites could look like. Here’s how to identify them, and what you should do if you’re unlucky enough to receive a bite.

First, why do spiders bite?

Breathe a sigh of relief: Most types of spiders don’t actually go out of their way to bite humans. “Spiders bite humans as a defense mechanism, a last resort to protect themselves,” says Troyano. When spiders do bite, they do so to paralyze their prey—however, you’re not it.

That said, there can be situations where a common house spider (like a jumping spider or wolf spider) might mistake you for prey or feel like you’re threatening them, even if you’re not trying to take them on. Maybe you put your hand in an old baseball glove where a spider took up residence or you happen to accidentally prop up your feet right near where they were hanging out. Whatever it is, an innocent move to you could seem like a threatening one to a spider, causing them to bite.

There is a possible exception, though: Yellow sac spiders—yellowish or pale beige spiders that like to build tent-like silk structures—are reported to be “recreational biters” meaning, “they bite us just for the fun of it,” says Howard Russell, MS, an entomologist at Michigan State University.

What does a spider bite look like? Are there typical symptoms?

A post shared by scratch73 (@scratch73) on Aug 9, 2019 at 5:52am PDT

If you’re bitten and see a spider scurrying away, the odds are pretty high that it was the culprit. If you’re not sure where your bite came from, it might be trickier to pin down. “With a few exceptions, it is very hard, even for medical professionals, to positively identify a bite or skin irritation as a spider bite.” Troyano says, and the fact is true for many insect bites. However, there are a few signs that it could be from a spider:

See also:  How Long Does A Spider Bite Hurt?

✔️Two tiny holes: Spiders have two fangs, so you might see two tiny holes in the center of the bite, Russell says.

✔️Redness and swelling: When a spider bites, foreign proteins from its saliva are injected into your skin, Troyano explains. That can cause a localized reaction that’s similar to what might happen with if you were bitten by a mosquito or stung by a bee. You might have swelling bite, redness, or irritation around the bite site.

✔️Mild pain: As for what it feels like, Troyano says most people compare it to how you’d feel when you’re stung by a bee—so, not fun.

✔️Possible itching: This symptom depends on how you personally react to an insect bite, but some spider bites can cause the release of the compound histamine in your body, and that can cause itching, says Nick Kman, MD, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

In the U.S., there are two types of spider bites that can cause more severe reactions: the brown recluse and black widow.

Brown recluse spider bites

A post shared by Holland Teresa (@hollandteresa) on Jun 24, 2018 at 10:58am PDT

The brown recluse—also known as the fiddleback or violin spider—has a distinct violin-shaped marking that starts at the top of its head and goes down its back. It’s also identified by its six eyes instead of the typical eight. It likes to hide in homes—preferably in dark, undisturbed areas like closets, shoes, or basements—and sheds, most commonly in the Midwest and southern states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The brown recluse cannot bite a human without “some form of counter pressure,” per the CDC—say, you slip your foot into a shoe and trap it. However, its bite can be extremely painful should you be unlucky enough to get one. “In the case of 90 percent of brown recluse bites, reactions are not severe, but they can be,” Troyano says. “If the spider’s bite includes a large enough dose of hemotoxic venom, it can cause necrotic wounds or lesions that can take months to heal or require surgical repair.” This can appear as a white blister or discolored ulcer and cause other system-wide symptoms like muscle aches and a fever.

A post shared by Scott Salvesen (@scottsalvesen) on Aug 1, 2019 at 7:00am PDT

Reactions to a brown recluse spider bite can also vary based on the health and age of the person who is bitten, Troyano says. For an elderly or diabetic person who may be immunocompromised, healing from a bite may be more difficult than for someone with a healthier immune system

Black widow spider bites

A post shared by Michael Gossie (@michaelgossie) on Jul 21, 2019 at 9:25pm PDT

Identifying a black widow is easy: It has a shiny, jet black exterior with a bright-red, hourglass-shaped marking on the underside of its abdomen. Unfortunately, black widow spiders do like to hang out in homes, particularly in the southern and western parts of the U.S. You can typically find them in garages or workplaces with lots of debris. Black widows tend to build webs where there are lots of corners, edges, or tall grass—and accidentally stumbling through one of these is when a bite is most likely.

Black widow bites are also rare “but can be extremely dangerous, even deadly,” Troyano says. If you’re bitten by a black widow, you’ll notice two distinct puncture marks and might feel burning, redness, and swelling at the bite site—and this can eventually spread to other parts of your body, the CDC says. Unlike other spider bites, the black widow’s bite injects neurotoxic venom, which can cause muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, sweating, tremors, and weakness.

If you head to the ER immediately, you should be okay. “There are approximately 2,200 bites reported each year, but there has not been a death related to a widow spider in the U.S. since 1983,” says Marc Potzler, a board-certified entomologist and technical services manager with Ehrlich Pest Control.

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

So, how long do spider bites last?

If you’re bitten by a generally harmless spider for some reason, the reaction will be “fairly immediate and happen within the first 24 hours,” Troyano says. “Most will go away just after a couple of days.” However, the healing process can become longer if the bite area becomes infected (often signaled by excessive swelling, pain, and feeling hot to the touch).

In the case of brown recluse or black widow bite, it may take weeks to properly heal, depending on the severity of the reaction or if an infection ensues.

A post shared by DeAnna Ley (@dedeley8) on Jul 30, 2019 at 10:16pm PDT

How to treat a spider bite

Russell says that most spider bites don’t require anything more than you’d do for a mosquito bite or bee sting, like washing the wound and using hydrocortisone cream. You can also apply ice to the bite itself to minimize any swelling. And, if you find that your bite is itchy, Dr. Kman recommends taking an antihistamine like Benadryl or Zyrtec.

But if you suspect you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow, you don’t want to take it lightly. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you’ll want to seek medical attention ASAP, as they can also be signs of infection:

  • The bite spot is hot to the touch.
  • The bite spot becomes a wound or lesion.
  • You develop a fever.
  • You have signs of anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, swelling of tongue or airways, dizziness, loss of consciousness).
  • You have moderate to excessive swelling.
  • You have any neurological symptoms, like muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, sweating, tremors, or weakness.

If you actually saw the spider that bit you, Troyano recommends trying to capture it and putting it in a plastic bag so you can show your doctor if you end up needing to see one.

Again, spider bites aren’t super common. If you have a mysterious bite that shows up on your body and you’re not sure where it came from, the odds are much higher that a mosquito or similar insect is to blame.

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