When Should You Worry About A Spider Bite?

Spider Bites (Common Poisonous) Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment

  • Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

What should you know about spider bites?

Most spiders in the US are harmless. However, black widow and brown recluse spider bites are dangerous, and sometimes life threatening. Black widow and brown recluse spider bites need immediate medical treatment.

What are signs symptoms of spiders that aren’t poisonous?

Spider bites are actually rare occurrences, and most presumed people that have been bitten by spider are likely due to another condition that mimics the symptoms or signs of a spider bite. Bites from most (non-poisonous) spiders cause local redness, irritation, and pain that usually can be treated at home.

What are the symptoms and signs of black widow spider and black recluse spider bites?

Black widow spider bite symptoms are immediate pain, burning, redness, and swelling. Other signs and symptoms of a black widow spider bite are a feeling of a pinprick, and sometimes double fang marks on the person where the spider bit. Often, a person does not know that a black widow spider has bitten them.

Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite are a mild sting followed by severe pain and local redness that usually develops within eight hours or more after the bite. Some brown recluse spider bites may include a purple or blue area around the bite, which is surrounded by a whitish ring and a large outer ring in a bull’s eye pattern. A fluid blister then forms at the spider bite site, and then sloughs off revealing a deep ulcer that may turn black. Other signs and symptoms of a black widow or brown recluse spider bite may include abdominal or joint pain, fever, nausea, and headache.

If you think that, you or someone you know has been bitten by a black widow or brown recluse spider, call 911 or go to the nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department for treatment.

First Aid for Stings and Bug Bites

First Aid and Home Remedies for Bug Bites and Stings

Most bug bites and stings are harmless, but some can cause debilitating or life threatening diseases. First aid for a minor but bite or sting include:

  • Remove a bee sting using a credit card to scrape it in a side to side motion.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), and topical analgesics to help relieve pain and itching.

Some people are highly allergic to some bug bites and stings, and they can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Some bugs can cause diseases like Lyme disease, which is caused by a tick bite.

What are the first signs and symptoms of spider bites that aren’t not poisonous?

  • Bites from most (non-poisonous) spiders cause local redness, irritation, and pain that usually can be treated at home using an over-the-counterpain reliever along with application of cooling packs or a wet cloth to relieve swelling.
  • These local reactions usually resolve without treatment over a period of 7-10 days. Rarely, an individual can have an allergic reaction to a spider bite, even to a bite from a non-poisonous spider, but allergic reactions are more likely to be due to contact with a spider than from a spider bite.

SLIDESHOW

What are the signs and symptoms of a black widow spider bites (pictures)?

  • A black widow spider bite is said to feel like a pinprick, although victims may not realize that they have been bitten.
  • Sometimes double fang marks may be seen at the location of the bite.
  • The most common localized symptoms of a black widow spider bite include
    • immediate pain,
    • burning,
    • swelling, and
    • redness around the bite.
See also:  When To See A Doctor For Spider Bite?

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What are the signs and symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite (pictures)?

The bite of a brown recluse spider leads to a mild stinging, followed by local redness and severe pain that usually develops within eight hours but may occur later. Some reports of brown recluse bites describe a blue or purple area around the bite, surrounded by a whitish ring and large red outer ring in a «bull’s eye» pattern. A fluid-filled blister forms at the site and then sloughs off to reveal a deep ulcer that may turn black.

IMAGES

Can black widow or brown recluse spider bite symptoms be the same?

Generalized symptoms of bites from black widow and brown recluse spiders may include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Joint pain or stiffness
  • Feelings of malaise
  • Rash
  • Muscle tension or cramping

Rarely, black widow spider bites are fatal; however, a few individuals have died from brown recluse spider bites, which are more common in children than in adults.

If a spider was not observed inflicting the bite, it is difficult if not impossible to determine whether a spider bite occurred, since many conditions of the skin may produce the same symptoms as a spider bite. Streptococcal and Staphylococcal infections, early lesions of herpes simplex or zoster, burns, stings or bites from other arthropods or insects (including fleas, bedbugs, mosquitos, biting flies, ants, and ticks), thorn injury, and early Lyme disease all may be characterized by skin findings similar to those from a spider bite.

Spiders rarely bite people, and only if threatened. People often thing they have spider bites when the irritation is from another cause.

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Are spider bites dangerous?

Most spiders do not have mouth parts strong enough to penetrate human skin, and the majority of spiders found in the U.S. and are actually harmless. There are two notable exceptions, the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider, which are both dangerous to humans. Spider bites are fortunately uncommon. In many cases, presumed spider bites are actually due to another skin condition or an insect sting.

The black widow and brown recluse spiders are more common in the southern states of the U.S. They prefer warm, dry climates and undisturbed areas such as basements, closets, woodpiles, attics, or under sinks. The black widow spider is a small, black, shiny spider with a red hourglass marking on its belly. The brown recluse spider is sometimes termed a «violin spider.» It is about an inch long and has a marking resembling a violin on the upper part of its back. Bites from both the black widow and brown recluse spiders are dangerous to humans and require prompt emergency medical care.

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What should you do if a spider bites you?

  • Wash the site of the spider bite well with soap and water.
  • Apply a cool compress or ice pack over the spider bite location.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to relieve symptoms. (Remember, not to give aspirin to children; use acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead).
  • Call the doctor or seek emergency treatment if the victim is a young child, if you think the bite may have been from a black widow or brown recluse spider, if any signs of an allergic reaction occur, if the bite area becomes infected, or if the victim develops a rash or severe illness.
  • If possible, retrieve the spider and bring it with you to the health care practitioner so that it can be definitively identified.
  • A tetanus booster shot may be necessary, depending upon the date of the patient’s last immunization.
See also:  When To See A Doctor After A Spider Bite?

What should you do if a black widow or brown recluse spider bites you?

  • Wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • Elevate the area to prevent spread of the venom.
  • Tie a snug bandage above the area (if on an arm or leg) to further reduce spread of the venom, but do not make the bandage too tight that it impairs the blood circulation.
  • Always seek immediate emergency medical care. An anti-venom medication is sometimes given for black widow spider bites. Doctors’ use different types of medications to treat spider bites, including pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and/or corticosteroids. Sometimes hospitalization is required after black widow or brown recluse spider bites.
  • If possible, retrieve the spider and bring it with you to the health care practitioner so that it can be definitively identified.
  • A tetanus booster shot may be necessary, depending upon the date of the patient’s last immunization.
  • Calling the Poison Control Center (24-hour hotline at 1-800-222-1222 in the U.S.) allows you to reach toxicology experts who can work with a health care provider in establishing the proper diagnosis and management of a spider bite.

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Spider Bites: What You Should Know

In this Article

In this Article

In this Article

  • Symptoms of Spider Bites
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Prevention

Unless you see a spider bite you, don’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 don’t cause a problem. That’s because most of the spiders in the U.S. have fangs that are too short to break your skin, and their venom isn’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 don’t bite unless they’re cornered. People sometimes invade their spaces without knowing it. That’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 you’re bitten by either of these spiders, you’ll have symptoms that let you know right away that something’s wrong. These might include:

  • Sharp pain or swelling at the site of the bite
  • Pain that spreads to the back, belly or chest
  • Sweating
  • Severe stomachcramps or painВ (most common with black widow bites)
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Feeling achy all over
  • Joint pain
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • 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)
See also:  What Is A Hobo Spider Look Like?

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and how you were bitten. He’ll want to know if you saw a spider bite you, and if you did, what the spider looked like. That’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).

Continued

Treatment

Many people who are bitten by spiders don’t need to visit the doctor, even if they’ve been bitten by a black widow or brown recluse. If you don’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. That’s because tetanus spores sometimes collect inside spider bites.

Prevention

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. It’ll help to keep the bugs out.

Sources

Mayo Clinic: “Spider bites — Overview,” Spider bites — Symptoms and Causes,” “Spider bites — Treatment,” “Spider bites — Diagnosis,” “Spider bites — Prevention.”

CDC: “Types of Venomous Spiders,” “Venomous Spider Recommendations.”

Nemours Foundation: “Bug Bites and Stings.”

U.S. Department of Labor: “Brown Recluse Spider.”

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