Brown Recluse Spider Bite Guide: Treatment, and Where to Go From Here
A recent report cited over 1,300 brown recluse spider bites in the United States annually. While brown recluse spiders are the most poisonous of all house spiders, no adult deaths have ever been confirmed. In extreme cases, a victim may experience permanent tissue damage and scarring. Knowing what to do in the event of a bite is key in preventing serious side effects.
Here, we’ll cover symptoms and side effects of a brown recluse spider bite, preventing an encounter, and treatment options.
Grab your first-aid kit and let’s get into it!
Facts About the Brown Recluse Spider
Before we discuss what to do if you suspect you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse spider, let’s go over some myths and facts about these eight-legged creatures. Knowing a little more about their habitat, appearance, and behavior can help prevent an unwanted encounter.
1.Where They Live
Brown recluse spiders are native to the United States. They’re commonly found in the Midwestern and Southeastern states.
Most recluses inhabit the states from Texas to Florida and north from Nebraska to Ohio. Unlike other varieties, the brown recluse is only found in America.
2.What Does A Brown Recluse Look Like
With over 35,000 species of spiders and 13 other species found in the same family as the brown recluse, it’s difficult to identify them by appearance alone. The size of a brown recluse with its legs extended is less than the size of a quarter.
One of the most notable features of this spider species is the violin pattern found on their body. The base of the violin pattern starts at the spider’s head and travels down the body with the neck pointing toward the rear.
Synonymous with the name, brown recluse spiders are a dark brown or yellow/tan color with dark legs. A unique feature of the recluse spider is that they have only six eyes – most spiders have eight.
Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive. Like most other animals, they only bite when they feel threatened.
They live in dark, dry, warm environments including woodpiles, porches, barns, closets, attics, and basements. You may notice a brown recluse web in the corners of these areas.
Unlike other species, the brown recluse web isn’t elaborate or ornate.
Brown recluse are more likely to bite victims in the warm, summer months.
The venom of a brown recluse spider is as potent and deadly as that of a rattlesnake.
So why don’t more victims die following this type of spider bite? The amount of venom the brown recluse injects is so small that it affects tissues and cells but often isn’t potent enough to cause death.
5.What Does the Venom of a Brown Recluse Spider Do?
Now that you know how venomous brown recluse spiders are, let’s discuss what happens when the venom enters your body.
Brown recluse venom contains enzymes that cause the destruction of cell membranes. This compromises skin tissues, leading to the breakdown of blood vessels, skin, and fat near the bite site. Many victims experience immediate tissue damage.
Following a brown recluse spider bite, the victim’s immune system has an anti-inflammatory response. White blood cells rush to the bite site in an effort to heal the damage. In rare cases, this rush of blood cells can actually make matters worse. Extreme side effects include a breakdown of the body’s red blood cells, blood clots, kidney failure, low blood platelet count, coma, and very rarely, death.
6.Warning Signs of a Brown Recluse Spider Bite
Some spider bites go undetected for several days or until obvious, visual signs appear. Here are a few warning signs that you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse:
Like most spider bites, a bite from a brown recluse is relatively painless. Some victims feel a minor pinch similar to a bee sting, but most bites go unnoticed until other symptoms arise. Some victims will experience severe pain at the bite site after a few hours or a small white blister. Others may notice fang-like marks. The bite itself is normally firm to the touch.
Everyone reacts differently to the venom of a brown recluse spider bite. Some symptoms are external while others are internal. You may become very itchy near the bite site or notice redness and swelling. Internal side effects include nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, and a fever.
Long-Term Side Effects
Most bites heal without any long-term effects internally or externally. In some cases, the site of the bite could result in permanent scarring. You may experience blistering, discoloration of the skin or a lesion. These are all caused by the spider’s dangerous venom and its effect on healthy skin tissue. While blistering is common, permanent scarring, damage to the skin cells or death of skin tissue is rare.
Unless you see the exact spider that bit you, it can be difficult to diagnose specific spider and insect bites. Whenever possible, capture the spider you suspect bit you and bring it with you to the doctor’s office.
If you think you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse, it’s important to seek medical attention that same day. A proper diagnosis is the first step in preventing long-term tissue damage or serious side effects. The doctor will ask you a series of questions to determine the type of insect bite you have and how much damage has been done.
You can expect the following questions:
When and where were you bit?
How much time has elapsed since the incident?
What are your symptoms?
Depending on your answers, the doctor might require laboratory testing. This is usually done only if you’re experiencing severe internal symptoms or the doctor suspects a dangerous allergic reaction. There’s no definitive test for brown recluse spider bites. The doctor will consider where the bite occurred and if it’s an area where brown recluse spiders are found.
Usually, a physical exam, a few questions, and the location of the incident are enough for the doctor to make a diagnosis. The only way to get undisputed confirmation is if you’re able to produce the spider that bit you as physical evidence.
Once you confirm that you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse spider, you need to treat the bite seriously and immediately. Quick action will prevent long-term tissue damage or scarring. There is no antivenom available for brown recluse spider bites. Instead, the doctor will determine the severity of your condition and may suggest the following treatment options:
-Antibiotics (if an infection is present)
-Pain medication (to ease discomfort)
-Tetanus immunization (to prevent infection)
-Antihistamines (to reduce itching and irritation)
Even before you visit the doctor, you can try some of these at-home remedies for a brown recluse spider bite.
Over the counter medication for pain and itching
Ice to reduce swelling
Avoid vigorous activity that might cause the venom to spread
Elevate the area
Avoid applying heat to the area which might accelerate tissue damage. Don’t try to remove the venom by sucking it out or making incisions near the bite site.
Preventing Brown Recluse Spider Bites
After your recovery from the spider bite, you want to take the necessary steps to prevent another encounter.
If you live in an area where brown recluse spiders are native, it’s important to perform routine checks of your home and surrounding areas. Perform routine cleaning both inside and outside your home. Keep woodpiles away from your home’s foundation. Keep your attic, garage, and basement neat and organized to eliminate hiding and breeding spaces for spiders.
Tight-fitting window screens and doors can also keep unwanted spiders out of your home. Yellow outdoor lighting near entryways reduces the number of spiders and other insects attracted to the area.
If you believe you have a brown recluse spider problem in or around your home, you may want to seek professional exterminating services. Pest control professionals will perform a thorough check of your home and surrounding areas and offer treatment options for reducing your risk of another brown recluse encounter.
Knowledge is Power
When it comes to protecting yourself and your family from a brown recluse spider bite, knowledge is power. The more you know about the habitat and behavior of this spider species, the better equipped you are to prevent an encounter.
If you live in a danger zone, be sure to check your home regularly for webs or brown recluse nests. Always be on alert when visiting areas where brown recluse spiders may be found.
If you suspect you’ve been bitten, take swift action. Whenever possible, collect the spider that bit you so that your doctor can confirm you have a brown recluse spider bite. Follow the doctor’s orders for a speedy and safe recovery. After your spider bite is healed, it’s time to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from another one.
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