Most spiders found in the United States are harmless, with the exception of the black widow and the brown recluse spiders. Both of these spiders are found in warm climates.
The brown recluse spider, or violin spider, is about 1-inch long and has a violin-shaped mark on its head with the handle of the violin facing backwards. It is often found in warm, dry climates and prefers to stay in undisturbed areas such as basements, closets, and attics. It is not an aggressive spider, but will attack if trapped or held against the skin. No deaths have been reported in the U.S. from a brown recluse bite.
Venom from the brown recluse spider usually causes local tissue damage. These are the most common symptoms of a bite from a brown recluse spider:
Burning, pain, itching, or redness at the site which is usually delayed and may start within several hours or days of the bite
A deep blue or purple area around the bite, surrounded by a whitish ring and large red outer ring similar to a "bulls eye"
An ulcer or blister that turns black
Headache, body aches
Nausea or vomiting
The symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite may look like other conditions or health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Specific treatment for a brown recluse spider bite will be determined by your healthcare provider. Treatment may include:
Wash the area well with soap and water.
Apply a cold or ice pack wrapped in a cloth, or a cold, wet washcloth to the site.
Protect against infection, particularly in children, by applying an antibiotic lotion or cream.
Give medicine for pain.
Elevate the site if the bite happened on an arm or leg to help prevent swelling.
Get immediate emergency care for further treatment. Depending on the severity of the bite, surgery of the ulcerated area may be needed. A stay in the hospital may be needed.
Quick treatment is vital to prevent more severe problems, especially in children.
A black widow spider is a small, shiny, black, button-shaped spider with a red hourglass mark on its belly, and prefers warm climates. Black widow spider bites release a toxin that can cause damage to the nervous system, so emergency treatment is needed.
These are the most common symptoms of a black widow spider bite:
Immediate pain, burning, swelling, and redness at the site (double fang marks may be seen)
Cramping pain and muscle rigidity in the stomach, chest, shoulders, and back
Rash and itching
Restlessness and anxiety
Salivation, tearing of the eyes
Weakness, tremors, or paralysis, especially in the legs
These symptoms of a black widow spider bite may look like other conditions or health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will determine specific treatment for a black widow spider bite. Treatment may include:
Elevate the site if the bite happened on an arm or leg (to help prevent swelling).
Get emergency care right away for further treatment. Depending on the severity of the bite, treatment may include muscle relaxants, pain relievers and other medicines, and supportive care. Antivenin may be needed, although it is usually not required. A stay in the hospital may be needed.
Quick treatment is essential to prevent more severe problems, especially in children.