Spider Bite Identification

Serving Illinois, Indiana and Missouri

We’ve all heard the myth that spiders like to bite people when they’re asleep. The truth is, spiders rarely bite. Although most spiders have venom and fangs, most are not large enough to inflict any serious harm to humans. Most spiders are more interested in attacking bugs than they are humans, but there is still the occasion where someone might accidentally touch a spider, making it feel threatened. Spiders will bite to protect themselves.

Is My Spider Bite Serious?

Almost all spiders have the ability to bite, but many are too small or not venomous enough to cause harm, unless an individual is allergic. There are, however, two species of spiders that have bites that are known to cause moderate to severe reactions: The brown recluse spider (or violin spider) and the black widow spider. The majority of spider bites are harmless, usually causing redness, swelling, or itchiness around the bite. However, in the case of a more serious spider bite, it is important to know what to do.

Identifying a Spider Bite

Spider bites can sometimes be difficult to identify. Many reports of spider bites were actually caused by other common insects such as ticks or fleas. Even some misdiagnosed skin infections have been accused of being the result of a serious spider bite. In the case that a spider is witnessed biting someone, or someone suspects that they may be suffering from a serious spider bite, the following symptoms and signs may be present:

Black Widow Spider Bites

If someone has been bitten by a black widow spider, they may experience:

  • Faint redness and swelling
  • Profuse sweating
  • Severe pain or cramping in the abdomen
  • Intensified stiffness and pain (within an hour) around the bite

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, medical attention should be sought right away.

Brown Recluse Spider Bites

If someone has been bitten by a brown recluse spider, they may experience:

  • Mild stinging
  • Intense pain and redness (within 8 hours)
  • A red ring around the bite and purple or dark blue coloring
  • Deep open sores or ulcers and necrosis (dying tissue)

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, medical attention should be sought right away.

Harmless Spider Bites

In the event that someone has been bitten by a harmless spider, they will likely experience little to no symptoms other than a small red itchy bump that requires no special treatment.

How to Care for Spider Bites

To care for a spider bite, be sure to wash the bite area with soap and water. If the arm or the leg has been bitten, keep it elevated, and control swelling and pain with ice packs, antihistamines, and over-the-counter medications. In the case of a more serious spider bite, make sure to bring a photo or specimen to your healthcare provider to help with identification, and to help determine the level of treatment needed. It is also important to make a note of all symptoms experienced, and any additional questions you might have for your nurses and doctors.

Spiders are harmless for the most part, but there are times when they will bite, whether it’s on accident or as a form of defense. Even though many times spider bites are misdiagnosed, it’s beneficial to understand the signs and symptoms of bites, and when to seek medical attention.

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