- When to See the Doctor
What are spider bites?
Most spider bites are harmless, cause minor symptoms, and go away on their own. In North America, there are two types of poisonous spiders whose bites may cause more serious symptoms—the brown recluse spider and the black widow spider.
The brown recluse—also called the violin spider—is about an inch and a half long and has a violin-shaped marking on its head. No deaths from a brown recluse spider have occurred in North America.
The black widow spider is all black with a red hourglass on its back. It is also shiny.
A bite from either of these types of spiders requires emergency medical treatment.
Signs of a spider bite
Most bites from spiders cause:
However, brown recluse spider bites also cause:
- White and red bullseye around the bite
- A blue or purple center of bite
- Black blister
- Joint pain
- Stiff joints
Black widow spider bites can cause:
- Strong muscle cramps that show up within 8 hours of the bite
- A hard-to-find bite
- Stomach pain
- Stiff belly
- Difficulty breathing
When to see a doctor for a spider bite
If you suspect the spider that bit you or someone else was a brown recluse or a black widow, seek medical attention right away.
Otherwise, see the doctor for a spider bite if you have:
- Signs of an allergic reaction
- Pain with cramping
- Signs of infection including:
- Warm to the touch
- More redness
- Worsening swelling
- Increasing pain
Diagnosis/tests for spider bites
To diagnose brown recluse and black widow spider bites, it is most helpful if you saw the spider. However, that is not always possible.
Doctors usually diagnose spider bites based on examining the bite and reviewing your symptoms. In some cases, a spider expert may help with the diagnosis.
Treatment for spider bites
Prevention for spider bites includes cleaning cobwebs out of the places spiders enjoy like:
Wear long sleeves and long pants when in these locations to reduce the risk of a spider bite. Keep firewood outside the house to keep spiders out. Shake out items that have been in storage before using them. Make noise before going into places where spiders like to live to scare them away before you get there.
You can treat most spider bites at home. First, wash the bite with soap and water to prevent infection. Use an icepack to help with pain or swelling.
Brown recluse spider bites
Treatment for brown recluse bites includes managing symptoms. Doctors may give antihistamines for extreme swelling. They may also prescribe antibiotics to avoid infection. Some brown recluse bites require surgery if the bite is especially deep. If you get a brown recluse bite, you'll also receive a tetanus booster.
Black widow spider bites
There is an antivenom for serious black widow bites, but doctors only use it if you have trouble breathing. Otherwise, they treat muscle cramps with muscle relaxers and treat the intense pain with prescription pain medication.
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Spider Bites (Black Widow and Brown Recluse)
Most spiders in the United States are harmless; however, black widow and brown recluse spider bites may need medical treatment. Symptoms of a harmless spider bite generally include pain, redness, and irritation.
Signs and symptoms of black widow spider bite include pain immediately, redness, burning, and swelling at the site of the bite. Sometimes the person will feel a pinprick or double fang marks.
Brown recluse spider bite symptoms and signs are a mild sting, followed by severe pain and local redness. These symptoms usually develop within eight hours or more after the bite. Black widow and brown recluse spider bites have similar symptoms, for example, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and abdominal or joint pain.
Generally, brown recluse and black widow spider bites need immediate medical treatment. If you think that you or someone you know has been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider, go to your nearest Urgent Care or Emergency Department for medical treatment.
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What Will Keep Spiders Away?Most of the species of spiders are harmless to humans. The famous black widow spider and brown recluse spiders are known for their deadly bites, but these are rare. A lot of people get “creeps” when they see a spider. Here are a few tips that can help you keep the spider away from your home.
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