Spider bites, also known as arachnidism, happen when spiders feel threatened, just like how any other animal or insect bite come about. A merely defensive act, the danger of spider bites depends on the kind of spider that bit you. Although all spiders can produce venom, it is important to know that substantial envenomation (poisoning by venom) is required for a bite to be considered dangerous for human beings. Note that only less than 30 species of spiders out of the 50,000 different spider species have enough venom to poison humans.
Among these dangerous species are the brown recluse and the black widow spiders – two of the widely feared venomous spiders in the United States. Typically found in dark and dry places with warm climates (most of the time in closets and woodpiles), these spiders are non-aggressive. Unlike the usual myth, they don’t get into bed with you and bite you while sleeping.
Note that the spider venom, as studied, is meant to work on smaller animals or insects, but spider bites from certain species can indeed pose life-threatening outcomes. Even so, in many cases, spider bites may be treatable at home. Being extra careful is still advised as to any bite, poisonous or not, can turn serious if it becomes infected.
Identify the spider bite
Dealing with spider bite starts by firstly identifying it. Remember that you can’t just do anything without checking the bite first. It is easy to misdiagnose spider bites, as many presume spider bites are really bites from other insects (fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes) or due to some skin infections. Even though all spiders are not the same, spider bites share some of the same symptoms – pain, redness, inflammation, and itchiness. Common spider bites from non-venomous spiders are identified to be less painful than a bee sting, lasting for about five to 60 minutes. On the other hand, spider bites from venomous spiders often last for more than 24 hours.
If you didn’t see that a spider bit you and you just saw the bite on your skin, examine if the bite has two distinct puncture holes right next to one another. These holes are commonly found on a spider bite. The physical appearance of a spider bite is a bit difficult to identify from other bites, but redness spreading away from the bite is common, along with a circle-shaped discoloration around the bite. If you got to see the spider biting you, take a photo of the spider so the doctor would get to key out the best way to treat it.
To further identify serious spider bites, some of the symptoms that may be felt 30 minutes to two hours (or longer) after being bitten include muscle cramps, headache, fever, difficulty breathing, nausea or vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, and salivation.
Dangerous spider bites
As mentioned, there are various ways on how to deal with spider bites, depending upon the kind of spider that bit you. It is highly important to consult a doctor immediately if you suspect that following venomous spiders bit you:
Black widow spider
This spider often features a red hourglass shape on its underside. Immediate treatment is advised, particularly for children and older adults. Anti-venom will be prescribed in severe cases.
Brown recluse spider
This spider has a dirt or sandy brown, violin-shaped body. They can also be dark brown and even slightly yellow. No antidote is available for a brown recluse bite. Cleaning the wound can encourage faster healing. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics. In extreme cases, surgery is needed.
This spider has a very hairy body and legs, brown or black in color, and at times brilliantly colored or striped. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience rash, swelling, itching, rapid heart rate, eyelid puffiness, and trouble breathing.
This spider is brown, measuring roughly 12 to 18 mm. Their legs have short hairs and their abdomens have numerous chevron-shaped marks. Seek immediate medical treatment. The treatment is similar to that of brown recluse spider bites.
Brazilian wandering spider
This spider has dark brown hair covering all over its body. Some have bright red hairs on their venom glands. Its bite is highly painful, quickly resulting in heavy sweating and drooling. Seek emergency treatment at once.
This spider is commonly brown, grey, black or tan, with dark markings or stripes, looking a bit similar to tarantulas or brown recluse spider. Healing can take up to 10 days for some. Although venomous, treating a wolf spider bite can be done at home. Cleaning the bite with warm soap and water and putting a bandage over the bite can prevent infection.
Home remedies for non-venomous spider bites
Home remedies for non-venomous spider bites can reduce pain and soreness and speed up the healing process. These home treatments may help avoid possible wound infection. Some natural treatments include:
- Cleansing the bite: Cleaning with soap and warm water can prevent infection.
- Applying aloe vera gel: Aloe vera gel can soothe skin and help it to heal faster.
- Using natural oils: Essential oils (lavender and rose oil) may help reduce pain and relax muscles.
- Applying ice pack: Apply an ice pack on and off the bite for 10 minutes at a time.
- Taking antihistamine: Antihistamine can help relieve itching, especially for those allergic to spider bites.