Spider Bites - Brown Recluse

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Brown recluse spider bite symptoms

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.

Picture of a brown recluse spider. Note the violin pattern on the cephalothorax and light-colored hairless abdomen.
Picture of a brown recluse spider. Note the violin pattern on the cephalothorax and light-colored hairless abdomen.
Picture of a brown recluse spider
Picture of a brown recluse spider
Picture of a brown recluse spider head close-up
Picture of a brown recluse spider head close-up

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

  • fever,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting ,
  • headache,
  • abdominal pain,
  • joint pain or stiffness,
  • overall feelings of malaise,
  • rash, and
  • muscle cramping or tension.

While black widow spider bites are hardly ever fatal, rare deaths have occurred from brown recluse spider bites and 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.

Return to Spider Bites (Including Black Widow and Brown Recluse)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Sandy, 55-64 Female (Caregiver) Published: May 21

I knew an elderly neighbor who was bitten by a brown recluse spider. The area of his leg became very inflamed, and then the skin began to slough off and break down, going into deeper layers. He was hospitalized but the spider bite became infected and the infection spread to his blood. He died 3 weeks after the bite.

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Comment from: Nana_to_JJ, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: August 13

It is very important to see a doctor right away if you suspect you've been bitten by a spider. I've been bitten by a brown recluse spider. The bite is sharp and painful, like a pinprick. The area of the bite turned red with a white center. When the center turned dark I became very concerned and went to the doctor who gave me a shot of steroids and a prescription for Cipro. Side effects of the bite included abdominal pain, dizziness and joint stiffness. One day after taking the Cipro, the symptoms went away and 3 days later the bite started to heal. I can't stress this enough, it is very important to see a doctor right away.

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