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Spider bites

Well, I imagine if you do not like snakes you are probably not very fond of spiders either.

Fortunately, of the thousands of different types of poisonous spiders in the US, only a few have fangs long and tough enough to pierce human skin; two of these will be discussed.

a) Black widow

  • Found in every state except Alaska
  • Typically found under woodpiles, in gardens or flower beds, or in dimly lit areas of the home.
  • The female is the most venomous spider in the US
  • Children and pregnant women are at increased risk for illness
  • Easy to identify because she is shiny black with a red hourglass shape on her belly.

Click here for photo called Black widow

What are the signs and symptoms of a black widow spider bite?

  • Sharp pain where bitten
  • Very little skin damage seen at the bite site
  • Leg or arm pain depending where bitten.  This will spread up the body to cause chest or belly pain, depending on where bite occurred.
  • Nausea and vomiting, high blood pressure, sweating

b) Brown recluse

  • Found mainly in the central and southeastern US
  • Very reclusive (shy) spider that generally comes out at night
  • Light to dark brown spider that can be identified by a violin marking on it’s back

Click here for photo called Brown recluse spider

What are the signs and symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite?

  • Bite usually causes a burning sensation
  • After a brown recluse bite, the skin around the bite can react in a couple of different ways:1) a small red bump develops surrounded by some redness OR
    2) a “red, white, and blue” reaction develops where a small red bump, called a vesicle, develops surrounded by a pale area which is then surrounded by a reddish-blue area (see photo called Brown recluse spider bite).Five to seven days after the bite, the bite area typically turns black, called an eschar (see photo called Brown recluse bite 2). This eschar usually falls off 7 – 14 days.
  • In rare cases, within a day or two of the bite, other signs and symptoms may develop such as a fever, sore muscles, vomiting, and the break down of red blood cells in the body.

What do I do if my child is bitten by a spider?

In many cases, you may not be aware that your child was bitten by a spider, but if so call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222 and describe the spider if possible.

If recommended by your poison control center, go to your closest health care facility.

If a spider bite was unrecognized and your child develops symptoms similar to what would be expected after a bite, then contact your family doctor or pediatrician for advice.

While preparing for transport, wash the area well with soap and water.

You may apply a cold or ice pack wrapped in a cloth, or a cold, wet washcloth to the site to help any pain and itching.

What will doctors and nurses do for my child when I arrive at the hospital after a spider bite?

Their vital signs and certain blood tests may be checked when you arrive and over a period of time in which they will be observed closely.

If their blood pressure is high (as may occur with a black widow bite) they may be given a medication to lower it.

Wound care will be performed as needed.  In the case of a brown recluse spider bite, a medication may be given if the skin damage is worsening; however, there are important possible side effects from this medication.

A tetanus shot may be given if indicated.

Pain control is important because a spider bite can cause lots of pain.

In the case of a black widow bite, if your child develops high blood pressure that is not controlled by medications an antivenin may be given.  There is no antivenin for a brown recluse bite.

If after approximately 6 – 8 hours your child is doing well then your child may be discharged home.  Hospitalization may be needed.  Both of these options will depend on several factors including your child’s vital signs, lab tests, and the wound itself.

How do I lessen the risk of my child being bitten by a spider?

  • Avoid wood or rock piles and dark areas where spiders live.
  • Inspect their area of play first if in places such as a basement, closet or playhouse in the yard.
  • Watch where they sit when in areas of high risk.
  • Teach your child to avoid playing with spider webs.
  • Shake out their shoes for spiders before putting them on.
  • If they are to play in areas where a spider is likely to be then they should preferably wear long pants with shoes.