When To Get A Spider Bite Checked Out?

When to See a Doctor for a Spider Bite

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Most spider bites are harmless. In fact, people usually don’t even notice when they’ve been bitten. Spider bite symptoms can be so subtle and non-specific—a red, inflamed bump that may be itchy—that it’s often difficult to determine whether the person was bitten by a spider or not. However, the bites of some spiders, including the black widow and brown recluse, can be deadly.

Types of Spider Bites

For health purposes, spider bites can be classified into two primary categories: poisonous spider bites and non-poisonous spider bites.

The vast majority of spiders in the United States are not poisonous. The bites of these spiders are harmless, although they can trigger an allergic reaction or become infected.

The two poisonous spiders that live in the United States are the black widow spider and brown recluse spider. Black widow spider bites tend to cause pain and cramping that usually start near the bite and spread throughout the body. Other black widow spider bite symptoms include nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal cramping, chills, fever and headache.

A brown recluse bite may seem asymptomatic at first. However, the affected area usually becomes sore within 8 hours, and in some cases, the center of the bite swells, darkens, blisters and turns into an open sore over a week or so. Other symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite include nausea, fever, chills and rash.

Spider Bite Treatment at Home

Most spider bites will heal without treatment. To prevention infection and increase comfort, you can:

  • Wash the affected area with soap and water.
  • Apply an ice pack or cool compress to decrease swelling and ease pain.
  • Consider over-the-counter (OTC) medication. If pain is interfering with activity or sleep, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) as directed on the packaging. An OTC antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can decrease itching.

When to See a Doctor for a Spider Bite

Go immediately to the nearest emergency room if you suspect the bite is due to a black widow or brown recluse spider. (Black widow spiders are found throughout the United States and feature an orange-red hourglass on their underbellies. Brown recluse spiders typically hide in dark, quiet places like wood piles and attics.) The bites of black widow and brown recluse spiders can be so serious that it’s important to get immediate medical attention, even if the affected person seems fine.

An allergic reaction to a spider bite is another reason to seek medical care. Minor swelling at the site of a bite isn’t cause for the concern, but if the swelling seems to be spreading, it’s time to call a doctor. Call 911 if the affected person is having trouble breathing.

Occasionally, an infection will develop at the site of a spider bite. If the bite looks worse rather than better as time goes on, or you notice pus and increased swelling, call your healthcare provider.

Who to See for a Spider Bite

Your primary care provider can handle most allergic reactions and infected spider bites. Emergency department personnel are best equipped to handle poisonous spider bites.

Most spider bites won’t cause any serious health problems. However, it’s important to pay attention to symptoms and seek medical care as needed. When in doubt, consult your doctor.

See also:  How To Get A Spider?

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Spider Bite

Is this your child’s symptom?

  • Bite from a spider

Symptoms of a Spider Bite

  • Most spider bites cause local pain, redness and swelling. It’s much like a bee sting reaction.
  • A few spiders (such as the Black Widow) can cause a more severe reaction.
  • Helpful if spider seen on the skin or around the child

Cause of Spider Bite Reactions

  • Most spiders have tiny fangs. They inject venom into the skin.
  • The venom is what causes all the symptoms.

Types of Spider Bites

Black Widow Spider Bite

  • A shiny, jet-black spider with long legs (total size 1 inch or 25 mm).
  • A red (or orange) hourglass-shaped marking on its under-side.
  • Causes immediate local pain and swelling.
  • Sometimes, you can see 2 fang marks at the bite site.
  • Severe muscle cramps (especially stomach cramps) occur within 1 to 6 hours. These last 24 to 48 hours.
  • Rarely causes death. Exception: bitten by several spiders or small child is bitten.
  • Note: many are dry bites because the fangs are small.
  • The brown widow spider is related to the black widow. It is found in southern US.
  • Brown widow spider bites are treated the same as black widow bites.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite

  • A brown spider with long legs (total size ½ inch or 12 mm).
  • A dark violin shaped marking on top of its head.
  • Causes pain at the bite. Blisters form within 4 to 8 hours.
  • The center becomes bluish and depressed (crater-like) over 2 to 3 days.
  • Skin damage may require skin grafting in 10% of cases.
  • Other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, muscle pain can occur. No life-threatening symptoms occur.
  • Brown recluse spiders are hard to identify. If you can, bring the spider along in a jar.

Non-dangerous Spider Bites

  • More than 50 spiders in the U.S. have venom. Their bites cause reactions that are not serious. This includes pain or redness at the bite site.
  • The bites are painful and swollen. This lasts for 1 or 2 days. They can feel and look like a bee sting.
  • Some single, unexplained, tender bites that occur during the night are due to spiders.

When to Call for Spider Bite

Call 911 Now

  • Trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Passed out (fainted) or too weak to stand
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Fever and bite looks infected (spreading redness)
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • New redness starts more than 24 hours after the bite. Note: any redness in the first 24 hours is due to venom.
  • More than 48 hours since the bite and redness now getting larger
  • Bite starts to look bad (such as skin damage, blister or purple color)
  • Bite pain lasts more than 2 days
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Non-serious spider bite

Seattle Children’s Urgent Care Locations

If your child’s illness or injury is life-threatening, call 911.

  • Bellevue
  • Everett
  • Federal Way
  • Seattle

Care Advice for Non-dangerous Spider Bites

  1. What You Should Know About Spider Bites:
    • Most spider bites look and feel like a bee sting.
    • The main symptoms are pain and redness.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Clean the Bite:
    • Wash the bite well with soap and water.
  3. Cold Pack for Pain:
    • For pain or swelling, use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
    • Put it on the bite for 20 minutes.
  4. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Use as needed.
  5. What to Expect:
    • The swelling and pain lasts for 1 to 2 days.
    • It should not be any worse than a bee sting.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe bite pain lasts more than 2 hours after pain medicine
    • Stomach pains or muscle cramps occur
    • Bite pain lasts more than 2 days (48 hours)
    • Bite starts to look infected
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse
See also:  The Spider And The Fly Poem By Mary Howitt?

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the ‘Call Your Doctor’ symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Last Reviewed: 06/09/2020

Last Revised: 03/21/2020

Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

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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)


    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.

    See also:  What Is The Scientific Name Of A Spider?

    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 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.


    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.


    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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