- Who Gets It?
What is a spider bite?
There are approximately 50 different types of spiders in the U.S. known to bite humans, and most are harmless. However, some spiders like the black widow and brown recluse are harmful because of their venom. Since some spider bites are life threatening, it is important to know when to see a doctor.
Symptoms of a spider bite
A spider bite is a red, inflamed area of the skin that has been punctured by a spider’s fangs. The most obvious way to tell if a spider has bitten you is the double fang marks that will be left.
Two spiders in particular have bites that are considered toxic to humans:
- Brown recluse – this spider is brown and is sometimes called a violin or fiddle spider because it appears to have a violin-shaped mark on its head.
- Black widow – this spider is completely black with a red hourglass shape on its underside.
Causes of a spider bite
Generally speaking, spiders are not aggressive creatures and only bite if they feel threatened. You may get too close to a spider and not even realize it is nearby when it bites.
How do you know if you have a spider bite?
The only way to know for certain if your symptoms are from a spider bite is if you saw the spider when it bit you. Otherwise, doctors may not be able to tell the difference between a spider bite and a bite from another insect. Other conditions that mimic symptoms of a spider bite include:
If you do feel a sting of pain and suspect a spider bite, safely check around you to see if you can identify what bit you.
More severe symptoms that can indicate a toxic spider bite include:
Diagnosis for a spider bite
Unless you can identify the species that bit you, an exact diagnosis is not possible. After you’ve talked to your doctor, they will treat your symptoms with the goal of preventing infection.
Treatments for a spider bite
If you suspect a spider bite, wash the area immediately and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. You can take pain medicine or an anti-inflammatory medication to relieve your symptoms. If your symptoms don’t improve and the bite is worsening, talk to your doctor about your spider bite.
You doctor can:
- Prescribe antihistamines to relieve symptoms of itching
- Prescribe antibiotics to treat and prevent the spread of infection
- Recommend surgery for a deep wound or severe infection
- Give a booster to your tetanus vaccination
Staying aware of your surroundings is the best way to prevent a spider from biting you. This is especially true in areas that are dark and warm like garages, closets, and other storage areas.
Additional steps you can take to prevent spider bites include:
- Shaking out items like gloves and shoes before putting them on
- Providing a warning to spiders by making noise when you walk into a dark area where they are likely to be
- Clearing clutter that appeals to spiders
- Seeking out pest control if you find that spiders are prevalent in your home
Complications of a spider bite
All medications and treatments pose the risk of side effects, so ask your doctor about what to expect.
The greatest risks you face with a spider bite are if you ignore symptoms and don’t get treatment soon enough. Always talk to your doctor about treatment if your symptoms aren’t improving.
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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.
What Do Spider Bites Look Like?The appearance of a spider bite varies depending on the type of spider causing the bite. Spider bites often take longer to heal than other insect bites.
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.
When Should You Worry About an Insect Bite?Treatment depends on the type of reaction to the bite or sting. A small or mild reaction such as redness and pain may require a local application of ice. Clean the area with soap and water to remove foreign particles.