What to know about spider bites

Spider bites are rarely poisonous, but you should know which spiders are dangerous.
Spider bites are rarely poisonous, but you should know which spiders are dangerous.

There are many species of spiders around the world such as the jumping spider, wolf spider, brown recluse, black widow, hobo spider, tarantulas, false black widow, camel spider, etc. Most spiders don’t bite unless they are threatened. Some don’t even have fangs. Most spider bites aren’t poisonous. A few species in the United States and Australia are known to be poisonous and can be deadly. These are the black widow and brown recluse.

How do you identify a spider bite?

The most obvious way to identify a spider bite is to see the spider on or near the person’s body. The puncture marks may be seen on the body part. They may be surrounded by an area of redness. In the United States, only the black widow and brown recluse are often known to be the most harmful to people.

  • The black widow is an approximately 1-inch long spider with a shiny black body and long legs. It has a red hourglass-shaped mark on the outer side of the belly.
  • The brown recluse is around 0.25to 0.75-inches long, violin-shaped and golden brown with six eyes.
  • Most spiders live in undisturbed, dark areas such as woodpiles, sheds or attics and they don’t bite unless threatened.

What are the symptoms of spider bites?

Although all the spiders look different, they do share some common symptoms. The severity of a spider bite may depend on the type of the spider, the amount of venom injected and your body’s sensitivity to it.

If you suspect that you have been bitten by a spider, you may have

What can you do if you have a spider bite?

If you suspect that you have been bitten by a spider, you must

  • Check whether you have any spider bite marks.
  • Do not panic. Most bites are harmless.
  • Clean the area with soap and water.
  • Wrap a clean, wet towel around the area.
  • Place an ice cube on the bite to reduce the redness and swelling.
  • Put some antibiotic cream on that area.
  • Do not put a bandage on (unless you know the type of spider or bite).
  • Raise your arm or leg if it was bitten.
  • Take a mild, over-the-counter analgesic such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for your pain.
  • Take an over-the-counter antihistamine to reduce your swelling.
  • Call or see a doctor if
    • You are unsure whether it was a poisonous spider.
    • A child is bitten.
    • You have symptoms beyond just a bite such as stomach pain, cramping, throwing up or breathing trouble.
    • Your symptoms and pain worsen after 24 hours.
  • If possible, take a photo of the spider or take the spider (even dead) to the doctor to help identify it and correlate it with your symptoms.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/15/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference

Perth Children's Hospital


The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne


American Family Physician


NSW Government
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