Spider Bites (Black Widow, Brown Recluse) - Treatments

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What should you do if you are bitten by a black widow or brown recluse spider?

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

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Comment from: angiewhitl, 45-54 Female Published: July 24

I was bitten by a brown recluse in 1999. I didn't know I was bitten, and it took a week before symptoms started showing up. There were hives that covered my hands, feet, my ears, and every part of my body. I ended up in the hospital with the doctors telling me I had Legionnaires' disease! I finally got rid of the hives only to end up in my doctor's office three days later with him telling me that I had to have emergency surgery to remove the poisons that were eating away at my body. I was sent to the hospital within the hour to have a debridement done on my backside that left a 4-inch funnel and two smaller tunnels into my backside. I woke up with about 3 feet of packing and pain so bad I can't describe it. I was off work for three months, was unable to sit, and needless to say, my hips hurt all the time. If anyone tells you it's nothing to worry about when you tell them you were bitten, you tell them to shove it. This woman still carries the scar from that spider (which we never found) .These spiders are very aggressive, and we do get a lot of them into the country by way of our retail imports.

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Comment from: Julie, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: October 08

Back in 2003, I was bitten by a brown recluse spider while at a barbeque. I noticed that evening when I returned home my right leg was very sore and a little bit red. The next day, the redness increased and spread with a layer of skin starting to separate from the other layers of skin. My leg felt very hot and sore. I went to the emergency room, my leg was excised, and I was given Penicillin VK, which I had an allergic reaction to. I was then given Levaquin, which aided in the healing. This began an entire year of treatment (excising and antibiotics). I was very fortunate that I got med help within hours of getting bit and probably saved my leg. I have severe scarring from the excising but other than that relatively normal. Best to eliminate spider bites is prevention. Be aware of your surroundings and areas indoors and out, shake out your clothes and shoes before dressing.

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