The Brown Recluse Spider Bite: A Guide on Symptoms and Prevention
There are certain things you should understand about spider bites. Click here to learn about the brown recluse spider bite symptoms and prevention.
Brown Recluse spider bite? Spiders play an important role in the ecosystem, but that doesn’t mean you want to get too up close and personal with certain species.
While many spiders are virtually harmless, the brown recluse can cause serious harm to humans.
If you’re dealing with a brown recluse spider bite or you want to know how to treat a bite, read on to learn more about symptoms and how to prevent the bite from happening in the first place.
Facts About the Infamous Brown Recluse
The brown recluse is among only a few spiders in North America that are considered dangerous to humans. Thankfully, deaths from these spiders are very rare and have only been reported in children younger than seven years of age.
The brown recluse spider is native to the Midwestern and Southeastern states, but that doesn’t mean that it only lives in these areas. There have been a few claims that this infamous spider was spotted in states like California and Florida, but there’s no evidence to prove that they have made these parts of the country their habitat.
As more people travel, it’s not surprising that an individual brown recluse can show up every now and again. Another spider called the desert recluse can be found in states like Arizona, Texas, and California.
Both the brown and desert recluse have a bite that can cause skin irritation and other serious symptoms. You can spot a brown recluse spider by its violin pattern that is found on the part of the body where its legs are attached.
A brown recluse is not hairy and has a yellowish-tan or brown body and darker legs. The spider is small in size with legs that are approximately one inch long.
Brown recluse spiders are not typically aggressive, and will likely only bite you if they are threatened. You could also be bitten if the spider ends up getting pressed directly against the skin. Most spiders including the brown recluse look for dark, dry environments like a closet, attic, porch, barn, basement, or woodpile.
The brown recluse has a small web with an unusual pattern, and it often makes its home in corners or deep crevices. Most reported bites have been reported during the summer.
The Effects of Spider Venom
The venom of a brown recluse is highly poisonous, and it can be extremely toxic to a human’s tissues and cells. The venom is more potent than a rattlesnake’s but because of its small size, it won’t affect you as much as if you were to be bitten by the snake.
Venom is a collection of specific enzymes that can cause the destruction of local cell membranes once they are released into the skin. These enzymes disrupt body tissue causing it to break down and lead to tissue death (also known as necrosis).
If you’re bitten by a brown recluse spider, the venom can affect the skin, fat, and blood vessels that are immediately surrounding the area of the bite. When you’re bitten, your body creates an immune response. This response results in the release of things like histamines and white blood cells to help minimize the damage.
In severe cases, a recluse spider bite can cause the destruction of red blood cells and low platelet count. It may even create blood clots or the loss of the ability to form blood clots.
Even more extreme cases may involve acute renal failure (also known as kidney damage), coma, or even death.
Symptoms of a Recluse Spider Bite
If you think you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse spider, it’s important to know the common symptoms. You may not notice anything unusual at first since the initial bite is usually painless.
You might feel minor burning near the bite site similar to a bee sting. A small white blister may develop, and then you’ll start to feel more intense effects around two to eight hours later.
Some serious symptoms of a recluse spider bite include severe pain at the bite location that can last around four hours. This is also accompanied by severe itching and redness.
You could also feel nauseous and may even vomit after you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse. Fever and muscle pain are also common and can cause you to feel weak, dizzy, or fatigued.
Look closely if you think you’ve been bitten and be aware of any changes to your skin. Just like other spider bites, there should be the telltale sign of two distinct fang marks where the spider sunk into your flesh.
Over time, most people heal from a brown recluse bite with very little scarring. The site may become firm and could possibly show signs of mild blistering or it may even turn a blue color.
If your skin starts to change color, it could lead to necrosis which is a dangerous lesion of the skin. Blistering is common, but any death of the skin or subcutaneous fat should be addressed by a healthcare professional immediately. In rare cases, a recluse spider bite can cause extremely severe necrotic lesions that show deep, wide borders.
Making a Diagnosis
If you are concerned about any type of insect bite and the pain and the redness does not subside, contact a physician right away. Go to a local emergency room or doctor’s office the same day you were bitten, and bring the spider with you if possible.
When you bring the culprit with you, it’s much easier for the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis. If you don’t have the spider, the doctor will do their best to try and determine what species bit you.
Many victims don’t know they’ve been bitten until symptoms start to develop. The doctor will ask you about the time, location, and other key information regarding when and where you were bitten. Make sure you tell them about any allergies you have or medications you’re currently taking.
Treating Spider Bites
There is currently no antivenom for brown recluse bites. If you’ve been bitten by an insect, the first thing you should do is apply ice to the bite location to reduce pain and swelling.
Keep the area elevated above your heart whenever possible, and wash the bite area with cool water and some mild soap. Don’t participate in strenuous activity since it could spread the venom into your skin or bloodstream.
If you’re in pain, try acetaminophen to help give you some relief. Never apply heat to any type of bite, as this could speed up tissue damage. You should also avoid applying steroid creams to insect bites.
If a doctor diagnoses you with a brown recluse bite, they may give you prescription treatments to help relieve the pain and swelling. Follow up visits may be required to ensure that you’re healing properly.
Preventing Brown Recluse Spider Bites
While there’s no guarantee that you won’t be bitten by a brown recluse spider, there are some things you can do to be proactive. First, clean your home thoroughly and pay special attention cracks and crevices where these spiders like to hide.
The best line of defense is to remove any possibility of a habitat for the spider to live and thrive. Get rid of any excess clutter in your attic, basement, or garage and move firewood and building materials away from your home.
Check your windows and doors to make sure they’re sealed tight. Clean behind your window shutters often, as this is a common area where the brown recluse likes to hide.
Switch your current outdoor lights with yellow or sodium vapor light bulbs that are less attractive to insects. With fewer insects, you’ll have less potential food for spiders to prey on. When in doubt, hire a professional pest control company to check for spiders and keep the brown recluse and other species out of your home.
Don’t Be a Victim
Once you’re aware of the symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite, you’ll know what to look for and when to seek professional medical treatment. Remember that you might not notice symptoms for a few hours, so be diligent and pay attention if things start to change.
With some simple preventative measures and help from a professional exterminator, you can keep yourself and your family safe from recluse bites.
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