What To Do When Spider Bite Blister Pops?
Infected Sores That Are Not From Spider Bites
- 1 Infected Sores That Are Not From Spider Bites
- 2 Hives or Shingles?
- 3 Bites on Both Feet? Probably Not.
- 4 But Is It a Spider Bite?
- 5 Did the Mailbox Bite Her?
- 6 Maybe a Spider Broke the Skin
- 7 Blister on the Toe Is Not a Spider Bite
- 8 Do You Have A Spider Bite? These 7 Photos Can Help You Tell
- 9 Spider Bites: What You Should Know
- 10 Symptoms of Spider Bites
- 11 Diagnosis
- 12 Treatment
- 13 Prevention
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.
Michael Menna, DO, is board-certified in emergency medicine. He is an attending emergency medicine physician at White Plains Hospital in White Plains, New York and also works at an urgent care center and a telemedicine company that provides care to patients across the country.
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Hospital emergency departments get a lot of infected sores that are blamed on spider bites. In reality, most of the «bites» are probably just nasty bacterial infections. In most cases, the spider is nowhere to be found.
Not having the spider makes it hard to positively identify a spider bite. In the United States, the brown recluse spider is often blamed for bites, but the brown recluse only lives in a few states in the Southeast part of the country. There are poisonous spiders related to the recluse living in other areas, but they are not nearly as dangerous as their Dixieland cousins.
Hobo spiders and black widows get blamed nearly as often as the brown recluse.
Doctors are almost as guilty as patients for incorrectly diagnosing ugly skin ulcers as spider bites. These pictures all show sores that the patient—and in some cases, the doctor—thought were spider bites.
Hives or Shingles?
After Jose felt what he thought was a spider bite him in Peru, he developed a rash with muscle pain that seemed to be relieved by an antihistamine (a Peruvian equivalent of Claritin). The raised rash does resemble hives in the pictures provided by Jose, but the rash also resembles another common condition: shingles.
Jose was not able to see a doctor treat this rash. He describes it as traveling from the site of the original bite on his back all the way around to his chest. That one-sided line is typical in shingles, but could also be an allergic reaction.
There is really no way to tell what Jose has without seeing him in person. Shingles—also known as herpes zoster—comes from the Varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you experiencing symptoms of shingles, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis, treatment. If you have shingles or are caring for someone with shingles, there are ways to find comfort. There is also an effective shingles vaccine.
If Jose did have an allergic reaction, allergic reactions to bug and spider bites can be deadly if they develop into anaphylactic shock. Usually, if anaphylaxis is going to develop it happens fairly quickly after the bite. Bee stings are commonly considered the most likely to lead to anaphylaxis.
Bites on Both Feet? Probably Not.
Ivonne H. shared this picture of her mother’s tissue damage following what the family believes were brown recluse spider bites. According to Ivonne, her mother was bitten twice; in Alaska on one foot and in Utah on the other. Ivonne says her mom felt the first bite. While walking, Ivonne’s mom felt a sharp pain and ignored it, thinking it was a lost needle in the carpet.
Ivonne’s mother began feeling pain in her leg and went to the doctor, who diagnosed the pain as being «weather-related.» After a while, the pain got worse and the damage became visible. Ivonne describes the wound as looking like a «colander.» Eventually, part of her mother’s right foot had to be amputated.
But Is It a Spider Bite?
Reading Ivonne’s account of her mother’s struggle, I can’t help but wonder if a spider ever had anything to do with the wound. Ivonne says her mom had diabetes, which often leads to circulation problems that are especially bad in the feet and legs. Many people with diabetes suffer from cellulitis (inflamed skin cells) that can get bad enough to need amputation.
I’m also skeptical because Ivonne’s mom was supposed to have two separate spider bites, one on each foot. Spider bites are rare; brown recluse bites are even rarer yet. The odds of getting a brown recluse bite on one foot in Alaska followed by a brown recluse bite on the other foot in Utah—neither state is in the brown recluse’s known habitat—are well beyond my mathematic ability to calculate.
Staphylococcus aureas or group A streptococcus both cause skin infections that are regularly mistaken for spider bites. Combine that with the fact that people with diabetes are at such a high risk for foot infections and you have the perfect storm for bilateral (both right and left) tissue damage of the type in the picture.
Whether caused by spider bites or skin infections, wounds like these are painful and dangerous.
It’s important to seek medical attention when a wound starts to form. Your doctor may be able to identify the cause and treat it.
Did the Mailbox Bite Her?
A reader sends in this picture from what she believes is a bug bite on her mother.
Mom got ambushed by something at the mailbox on a Thursday and this was how the lesion looked on the following Saturday. Lots of confirmed spider bites show expanding lesions like this one, but infections can do that, too. As we’ve seen before, the blister can come from a bite, an infection or something else entirely.
There are very few welts or lesions that can be positively identified as a particular bug or spider. So often, readers want to know what kind of bug did the damage, but the answer has to be: what kind of bug did you see biting you? If the critter wasn’t caught in the act, then there is little chance we’re going to solve the case.
If a lesion keeps growing, starts oozing, smells bad, gets hot, turns black, starts bleeding, or the victim gets a fever or starts showing other signs of an infection, it’s time to go to the doctor.
Maybe a Spider Broke the Skin
While this wound was attributed to a spider bite, there was no spider to identify. Whether or not the original break in the skin came from a spider, the wound is definitely infected. The patient sought help after two days (this image) because the wound was draining pus.
Getting help was the right thing to do. Evidence abounds that what many patients call «spider bites» are really methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. MRSA can lead to dead tissue (necrotizing fasciitis) like that pictured here. MRSA is also fast becoming the most common diagnosis for skin lesions like these treated in the emergency department.
Blister on the Toe Is Not a Spider Bite
Bridget writes that this blister has led to antibiotic therapy and is extremely painful. She doesn’t provide a species or a spider to look at, which leads me to the same place I always go. Unless the spider is caught in the act, odds are we’re looking at some chickenpox, staph or strep infection.
Bridget says she popped the blister after three days because she couldn’t take the pain and pressure. She was advised not to by her physician but did anyway. There’s not really a right or wrong here, the blister would probably break and drain at some point, but you don’t want to encourage it prematurely. She could have introduced another form of bacteria and possibly made the infection worse.
It turns out this is not a spider bite at all. It is a skin infection from MRSA. Hopefully, Bridget followed the rest of doctor’s orders, especially about taking all her antibiotics. Bridget was right in seeking help for this blister. She hoped that sharing it would help others recognize when a blister is more than ill-fitting shoes. Thanks to her for sharing.
Cronan KM. First aid: Spider bites. KidsHealth from Nemours. Updated July, 2018.
Jenkins TC, Knepper BC, Jason Moore S, Saveli CC, Pawlowski SW, Perlman DM, McCollister BD, Burman WJ, Diabetes mellitus and skin infections. J. Hosp. Med 2014;12;788-794. doi:10.1002/jhm.2267
Chauhan H, Patil S, Hajare A, Krishnaprasad K, Bhargava A. Necrotizing fasciitis of hand by nethicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) — a sinister. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(6):DD01–DD2. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/12381.6014
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.
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.
Spider Bites: What You Should Know
In this Article
In this Article
In this Article
- Symptoms of Spider Bites
Unless you see a spider bite you, donвЂ™t assume that mysterious bump on your skin came from an eight-legged creature. Spider bites are fairly rare.
These eight-legged creatures do bite people on occasion. But most of the time, these bites donвЂ™t cause a problem. ThatвЂ™s because most of the spiders in the U.S. have fangs that are too short to break your skin, and their venom isnвЂ™t strong enough to endanger a creature as large as a human.
Only two spiders that are native to the U.S. can do real harm when they bite a person: Black widows and brown recluses. Black widows tend to live in woodpiles, along fences or in outhouses in the South and West. Brown recluses tend to live in garages, attics or piles of rocks or firewood in the Midwest or South.
Both of these spiders tend to keep to themselves. They donвЂ™t bite unless theyвЂ™re cornered. People sometimes invade their spaces without knowing it. ThatвЂ™s when they get bitten.
Symptoms of Spider Bites
Most look like normal bug bites, with red raised bumps that might itch. Bites from black widows or brown recluses may or may not look different. (In fact, bites from brown recluses may look and feel like nothing at all at first.) But if youвЂ™re bitten by either of these spiders, youвЂ™ll have symptoms that let you know right away that somethingвЂ™s wrong. These might include:
- Sharp pain or swelling at the site of the bite
- Pain that spreads to the back, belly or chest
- Severe stomachcramps or painВ (most common with black widow bites)
- Feeling achy all over
- Joint pain
- A deep ulcer that forms at the site of the bite, with the skin at the center turning purpleВ (can occur from brown recluse bites)
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and how you were bitten. HeвЂ™ll want to know if you saw a spider bite you, and if you did, what the spider looked like. ThatвЂ™s really the only way he can know for sure that it was a spider that bit you.
If you have more than one bite on different parts of your body, or if several people in your house were also bitten, a spider is probably not to blame. In this case, your doctor will examine you to rule out other causes, like infection or vasculitis (a condition that causes blood vessels to swell).
Many people who are bitten by spiders donвЂ™t need to visit the doctor, even if theyвЂ™ve been bitten by a black widow or brown recluse. If you donвЂ™t have more severe symptoms like the ones listed above, you may be able to care for your spider bite at home. Try these tips so ease your pain or discomfort:
- Clean the wound with soap and water.
- Dab it with antibiotic cream.
- Elevate (raise) the area that was bitten to reduce swelling.
- Put an ice pack on the bite.
- Take over-the-counter pain medicine, if needed.
- Watch for more severe symptoms.
See a doctor right away if you were bitten by a black widow and y have extreme pain or other serious symptoms. He may need to give you an antivenom shot.
If the site of bite gets infected, you may need antibiotics. You might also need to get a tetanus booster. ThatвЂ™s because tetanus spores sometimes collect inside spider bites.
You can try to avoid spider bites by doing your best to not cross paths with spiders.
For example, if you spend time working outside in places where spiders may live:
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, hats and gloves.
- Tuck your pants into your socks.
- Shake out garden gloves and other clothing before putting them on.
- Store gardening clothes in a tightly sealed plastic bag.
- Move piles of firewood and stones away from your home, and use caution around them.
To prevent spider bites while indoors, try to avoid storing items in cool, dark spaces, like under the bed. And make sure that all windows and doors have screens. ItвЂ™ll help to keep the bugs out.
Mayo Clinic: вЂњSpider bites — Overview,вЂќ Spider bites — Symptoms and Causes,вЂќ вЂњSpider bites — Treatment,вЂќ вЂњSpider bites — Diagnosis,вЂќ вЂњSpider bites — Prevention.вЂќ
CDC: вЂњTypes of Venomous Spiders,вЂќ вЂњVenomous Spider Recommendations.вЂќ
Nemours Foundation: вЂњBug Bites and Stings.вЂќ
U.S. Department of Labor: вЂњBrown Recluse Spider.вЂќ
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