How To Detect And Treat Spider Bites


Humans have long been afraid of spiders, dating as far back as Little Miss Muffet, who ‘sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey, when along came a spider, who sat down beside her, and frightened Miss Muffet away.’ Today, we have more knowledge about the different types of spiders and how harmless or dangerous they are.

Common house spiders are relatively harmless, but get bitten by a Black Widow or Brown Recluse, and then you have a problem on your hands. Most times we are not even aware that we were bitten by a spider until we notice a small red bump on our skin. The first question we ask ourselves is, ‘what bit me?’ We wonder if it was a mosquito, and dread if it was a spider.

How To Tell A Spider Bite From A Mosquito Bite

Mosquito Bite                      Spider Bite

Itches                                     Itches and/or hurts

Smooth bump                       Fang marks in the center of the bite

Swelling                                More swelling than a mosquito bite

The first sign that you’ve been bitten by a venomous spider is the pain it causes. If you find the spider that bit you, kill it and take it with you to the doctor.

Where Spiders Dwell

Common house spiders are often found in dark, dusty areas such as the attic or basement. Outside, spiders are attracted to dark, damp places such as lake houses. Wherever there are lots of other insects, you will find spiders spinning their webs to catch their prey.

Treating Minor Spider Bites

  • Wash the area with warm water and soap
  • Apply a cool compress to reduce swelling
  • Take an oral over the counter pain reliever such as Tylenol, Advil, or Aleve
  • For itchy bites, take an allergy medicine such as Claritin, Allegra, or Zyrtec which cause less drowsiness than Benadryl
  • Do not apply topical antihistamines as this can worsen the situation
  • Topical steroid creams can help if symptoms persist
  • Do not scratch. This will open your skin to infection.

Spider Bites On The Head Or Neck

These spider bites are a cause for more concern since swelling can close off airways in the nose and mouth, or obstruct vision by affecting the eyelids.

Black Widow Spider Bites

A Black Widow spider has a distinct look, and if you see one, you should avoid it at all costs. Its red hourglass markings on its shiny black body, is its calling card. These spiders are found in dark, moist places such as wood piles, and their bites are extremely painful.

Symptoms can last for several days and include …

  • Extreme pain lasting up to 12 hours
  • Swelling
  • Fang Marks
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Spreading pain that reaches your belly or your back
  • Severe abdominal cramping
  • Severe rigidity in abdominal muscles
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Restlessness

To treat a bite from a Black Widow spider …

  • Elevate the area to prevent venom from spreading further
  • Wash the area
  • Call Poison Control at 800-222-1222

Hospital treatment may include …

  • Injection of anti-venom
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain medicine
  • Steroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Tetanus shot

Symptoms of anaphylaxis require a call to 911. Though rare, symptoms include …

  • Lip Swelling
  • Tongue Swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Lead headedness
  • Dizziness

Brown Recluse Spider Bites

You can identify a Brown Recluse spider by its violin patterned back. Found mostly in the southeastern and midwestern states, they can also be spotted in other locations. Like their name, these spiders are reclusive not aggressive, and only bite if you threaten them. The bites can initially be relatively painless with only a slight burning feeling and with a small blister forming.

Symptoms that occur up to an hour or more later include …

  • Severe pain
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Skin necrosis
  • Red blood cell destruction
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Acute kidney damage
  • Death – though rare and most often affecting children

Skin Necrosis is caused enzymes found in the venom that destroy the skin and surrounding fat and blood vessels.

Symptoms of skin necrosis includes …

The bite turns dark purple and then black in the center

Bite looks like a scab or a deep bruise

Hospital treatment may include …

  • Injection of anti-venom
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain medicine
  • Steroids
  • Antibiotics
  • Tetanus shot

Preventing Spider Bites

Prevention is always the best medicine. If you live in an area where venomous spiders reside, always shake out your clothing before putting them on, and this goes for shoes and blankets as well. Be noisy when entering attics, basements, closets, or storage areas. Cut down on clutter and set blue traps in your home.

If you suspect these spiders are in your home, call a professional exterminator.

As for common house spiders, their bites may be harmless, but still bothersome. Use the same precautions mentioned above to make sure a spider doesn’t crawl on you and bite you.

If you are bitten by a spider, stay calm, assess the situation, and get treatment.


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