Spider bites can be deadly and painful. It is important to be able to recognize spider bite symptoms quickly after they appear and to be prepared to treat them.
Starting spider bite treatment immediately can make all the difference. By learning how to recognize spider bites and reading a little advice, you can be way ahead in the event you get bit.
How to Handle a Spider Bite
How a Spider Bite Might Happen
This weekend, while I was enjoying a nice warm morning at the car wash, I was suddenly reminded of how terrifying spider bites can be.
I was relaxed and enjoying a coffee when, all of a sudden, I felt a slight tickling sensation across my right shoulder. I reached over to the area and quickly grabbed and twisted.
I shuddered as I rolled the little invader out of my shirt. To my horror, it was a brown recluse. I have stared a bull in the eyes and brushed off a coral snake, but spiders freak me out.
I don't know why, but I have always been terrified of them. For everyone living in the U.S., I have good news:
How to Recognize a Deadly Spider Bite
The brown recluse is found in the southern two-thirds of the country. It likes to hide in boxes, books, and other hard-to-reach places.
The hobo spider likes it out West. You can find the black widow in every state except Alaska.
Here are a few tips on how to identify a spider bite.
Evaluate the Pain
If you feel pain when the spider bites, it’s likely a black widow spider bite, whose bite is often but not always painful. You may also develop severe body aches and fever.
A brown recluse spider bite is a slight sting at best. Most of the time you feel nothing. They hide in or under boxes, under your bed sheets, in your clothes.
The first you know about it is the pain that develops several minutes to hours after the bite. As a brown recluse spider bite progresses it takes a nasty turn.
This is the eschar—the black, leathery, dead tissue—that can form over the wound.
A hobo spider’s bite feels similar to a brown recluse’s, and the pain also occurs minutes to hours after the bite.
Look at the Skin Damage
That is the key to the brown recluse spider bite. You may not know when it bit you, but the bite area becomes red, blistered, or black.
The area starts out small, and the redness spreads. A black spot of dead tissue develops in the middle of the redness.
This dead tissue can be anything from small and superficial to deep and large—sometimes enough to warrant a skin graft when everything’s said and done. As the tissue dies, the area becomes very painful.
The hobo spider can cause skin damage, but less so than the brown recluse. The black widow spider bite causes a red spot that’s sometimes hard to see.
But while you may not see the spot, another symptom will be much more obvious: It can cause plenty of muscle aches and cramps throughout the body for one to three weeks.
How to Treat a Spider Bite
If at all possible, get to a doctor. If you can’t, consider the following:
For Black Recluse and Hobo Spiders:
Keep the wound cool and slow your breathing. This will help slow the venom’s spread. Apply ice, and keep the area at heart level or above.
Even though bites are rarely fatal, secondary infections can quickly turn fatal. The next step you need to take is to make sure you do everything possible to prevent infection.
As the black layer of dead skin (eschar) sloughs off, treat the wound as you would any other by keeping it clean and covered and applying antibiotic ointment or honey.
Some large wounds take several weeks to heal. If it starts looking infected, you’ll need oral antibiotics. Treat the pain with an over-the-counter pain reliever.
For the Black Widow:
If you think the spider was a black widow, take a pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin for the muscle cramps.
Within minutes or hours, a black widow bite can lead to severe chest and abdominal pain, mimicking appendicitis or a heart attack.
It can make your blood pressure go up, and you may need treatment. (Possible signs include a quickened pulse and a flushed face.)
Up Next: 7 Home Remedies For Spider Bites
Don't Panic – It's Just a Spider Bite
If you can’t get to a doctor, rest to try to lower your blood pressure. If you have anti-venom, use it.
The good news is thanks to anti-venom, it is extremely rare to die from a spider bite, and those that do typically have an allergic reaction or a severe secondary infection.
That being said, I am still terrified of spiders, and on occasion, I still shake out my sheets before hopping into bed.
For some nightmare fuel (and more reasons to take care of a spider bite right away), here is a video from They Will Kill You:
Handling a spider bite is actually pretty easy, as long as you get medical attention as soon as possible. Furthermore, spider bites are rarely very deadly, so you have some time to seek care.
However, don't shrug it off. You have seen the effects of a spider bite, and you don't want that to happen to you. Therefore, keep an eye out and always be aware of your surroundings, survivalist!
How do you treat a spider bite? Tell us your home remedies in the comments section below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 20, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.