Spider Bites: An Overview and More


Let's clear this up: This red bump is probably not a spider bite. Most likely it is a skin infection . The most common bacterial infections are Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes . Both create red bumps that get hot, swollen, and spread.

If it is a spider bite and you received it in the United States, it is very unlikely that you will die from it. Of all the spiders in North America, only two are capable of causing disease. This is a black widow and a brown recluse .

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Spider bite symptoms

If you have not seen how the spider bit you, then the probability that it is a real spider bite is very small. It is almost impossible to identify a spider bite simply by its appearance .

Local reactions to the bites of all kinds of toxic insects are usually the same: redness, swelling, itching and pain. Be careful if the local reaction worsens for more than 24 hours. Look for the following:

  • The redness is spread by the bite.
  • Bite drain
  • Increased pain
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Discoloration around the bite, similar to a halo or a bullseye.

Black widow spider bites

In the United States, black widow spiders are considered the most poisonous. They contain a toxin capable of producing a systemic reaction that affects the functioning of muscles and nerves. Its symptoms can help doctors diagnose these bites . Symptoms include:

  • Canine teeth (tiny double holes): characteristic signs that are only visible immediately after the bite, before swelling or redness appears.
  • Perspiration
  • Shaking chills
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps (legs, abdomen, etc.)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Exhaustion

In other countries, there is a widow spider called the red-back spider. It is a good idea to consider any shiny black spider with a red mark as belonging to the widow family. Another type of widow spider, the brown widow, generally has a weaker toxin and is found throughout the world.

Black widow spider bite on foot.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Brown recluse spider bites

Although the wound left by a brown recluse is quite intimidating, brown recluse spiders are much less likely to cause serious injuries than black widows.

Boils on the skin do not always mean that you have been bitten by a brown recluse. Skin infections can also cause boils. Boils are often mistaken for brown recluse spider bites .

When something is not hermit is easier to understand than when it happened. One way to rule out brown recluse bites is to use the DON'T DISCONNECT mnemonic. This mnemonic helps to point out things that do not appear in brown recluse bites .

  • Numerous : If there are more than one or two lesions, then they are not from a brown recluse. Brown recluse bites come in one or sometimes two.
  • Origin : Brown recluse bites usually occur when you disturb a spider. Most of the time it is hidden in a closet or attic, possibly in boxes. Sometimes a spider can crawl into bed and bite a person while they sleep. If it happened while you were gardening, it is probably not a brown recluse bite.
  • Timing : If the bite did not occur between April and October, it is unlikely to be a brown recluse bite.
  • Red center : Brown recluse bites almost never become red and inflamed in the center of the lesion. They are usually pale, blue or purple. They can be red on the outside. But if it's red in the center, it's probably not a brown recluse.
  • Chronic : It takes three weeks for a small bite to heal or three months for a larger bite to heal.
  • Large – Largest areas of necrosis or dying tissue are less than 4 inches wide. They may be red and swollen outside of this area. But there will be no more necrosis.
  • Ulceration too early : This can be difficult for people without medical education to remember. Brown recluse bites crack and crust over for at least a week. If it's crispy before seven days, it's probably not a brown recluse bite.
  • Swelling : Brown recluse bites are flat or depressed in the middle, not swollen. If it is swollen (especially red), it is not a brown recluse. An exception to this rule is face bites, especially the eyelids. Those swell up a lot.
  • Radiates Moisture – Brown recluse bites are dry, not wet. If pus oozes, it is more of an infection than a spider bite.

Brown recluse spiders are found only in the southeastern United States. And they are very difficult to identify, even by experienced spider specialists.

There are several other species of hermit spiders that are similar to but less well-studied than the brown recluse spider. Brown recluse spiders often have a violin-shaped marking on the back of the abdomen, but this marking can be inconsistent and very faint.

Allergic reactions to spider bites.

Anaphylaxis , a life-threatening type of allergic reaction, is always the most concerning for any type of bite. If the victim shows any signs of an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis shortly after being bitten by an insect, call 911 .

Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include:

Seek medical attention if symptoms appear on areas of the body away from the sting.

Harmless spiders

Almost all spiders are poisonous. This is how they hunt. But most spiders are too small or their venom too weak to be dangerous to humans.

Some spiders are quite well known and seem to be the culprit of most spider bites. This happens despite the fact that there is no evidence that these injuries are even from spiders.

Black widow and brown recluse spider bites are very likely to send you for treatment. But there are more than 40,000 species of spiders in the world. Here are some North American spiders that have gotten a bad rap without much evidence to back up their reputation:

  • Rebel spiders ) Tegenaria agrestis ( : These types were introduced to the northwestern United States from Europe in the 1980s. They have since been charged with cases of necrotizing arachnidism, the medical jargon for tissue death due to spider venom. Published in the Journal of Medical Entomology in 2011 found no medical significance for poisoning from wandering spiders.
  • Wolf spiders ) Lycosidae ( : Native to Australia, wolf spiders are generally considered very dangerous. But studies of suspected wolf spider bites in the United States have shown no serious injury.

There are much more dangerous species of spiders in other parts of the world than in the United States. There is a red-backed spider in Australia. It looks like a black widow. Australia also has deadly white-tailed spiders and funnel spiders.


Determining if a spider has bitten can be impossible. Patients rarely bring a brown recluse spider to a specialist. This is necessary for a correct diagnosis. Black widow bites are often identified only by their venom, with no visible bites on the skin.

Call your doctor or go to the emergency room if spider bite symptoms persist for more than 24 hours or get worse. You should also go to the emergency room if you think it is a bite from a brown recluse or a black widow. It's also a good idea to call your doctor if you don't know the date of your tetanus vaccination .

If you see your doctor for a skin reaction, don't start by telling him or her that it is a spider bite, even if you think it is exactly what it was. Like the rest of us, physicians are susceptible to the power of suggestion. Instead, tell your doctor: 'I have this rash (or a lump, a boil, a red or black spot). Could you tell me what it is and what can I do about it?

Many skin rashes and sores are diagnosed in the emergency department as spider bites. But it really is not. Boils on the skin caused by infections are often mistaken for spider bites in the United States, even by doctors.

Watch out

You can treat all insect bites the same, unless it is a bite from a brown recluse or a black widow. Some articles on the internet recommend treating poisonous spider bites differently than non-poisonous ones. But, as you will see, there are no non-poisonous spider bites.

There are many home remedies for insect and spider bites, but do they help? Most of them have been shown to provide no real benefit. Meat softener (papain) has even been accused of allergies and asthmatic reactions.


Many skin infections are misdiagnosed as spider bites. And if you live in the United States, you are unlikely to die if bitten by a spider. Brown recluse spiders and black widows are the only spiders in the United States that can cause serious bites.

Treat your spider bite like any other insect bite . You can use over-the-counter medicine to relieve pain and itching. If your spider bite symptoms persist or worsen after 24 hours, or if you think you've been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow, you should see your doctor for treatment.

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A spider bite is not funny. The good news is that most spider bites will not harm you in the long term. In many cases, it is not a spider bite at all. It is just a skin infection.

If you know that you have been bitten by a brown recluse spider or black widow spider, see your doctor. Doctors can help provide the proper treatment for these spider bites.

Frequently asked questions

  • To relieve pain, swelling, or itching, try the following:

    • Wash the bite site with soap and warm water.
    • Apply a cold washcloth or ice pack.
    • For itching, take over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or Zyrtec (cetirizine).
    • For pain or swelling, try over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen).

    Get immediate medical attention if symptoms are severe or worsen.

  • With mild spider bites, the pain and swelling last one to two days. A brown recluse spider bite usually heals in eight weeks. With black widow bites, symptoms usually go away after two days and go away after five days, but you may notice mild symptoms within a few weeks.

  • Brown recluse spider bites can cause a blister to form surrounded by bruises or reddish skin on the outside. A spider bite can cause the pus to turn into blisters.

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