Most spider bites are harmless and require little or no treatment, except perhaps an antiseptic swab or anti-itch cream. However, there are four types of spiders commonly found in much of the United States whose bites can have more drastic effects and infections. The four spider bites most individuals need to be especially wary of are those of the black widow, the brown recluse, the hobo spider, and the yellow sac spider.
The brown recluse spider is native to the United States and found mainly in the central Midwestern states southward to the Gulf of Mexico (see map). It is also called the fiddleback spider due to the dark violin shaped marking appearing on the spider’s back.
At our country home, we’ve had our share of insect bites and I’ve been bitten by a brown recluse spider twice before. Both times the bite grew to golf ball size, became infected and required a trip to my Dr. for wound debridement and a round of antibiotics. In both instances, I was left with an ugly dark-colored scar.
About a week ago, my 21-year-old daughter Caitlin showed signs of being bitten by a brown recluse spider. The spider is not aggressive and will only bite if it feels threatened. They like to hide in dark snug places and will crawl into clothing left on the floor, and occasionally will get into your bedding.
Brown Recluse Bite Symptoms
Brown recluse spider bites often go unnoticed initially because they are typically painless bites. Symptoms usually develop two to eight hours after a bite.
Victims may experience these symptoms:
- severe pain at bite site after about four hours,
- severe itching
- muscle pain
Initially the bite site is mildly red and upon close inspection may reveal fang marks. Most commonly, the bite site will become firm and heal with little scaring over the next few days or weeks. Occasionally, the local reaction will be more severe with reddening and blistering, sometimes leading to a blue discoloration, and ultimately leading to a necrotic lesion and scarring. Signs that may be present include:
- blistering (common),
- necrosis (death) of skin and subcutaneous fat (less common)
- severe destructive necrotic lesions with deep wide borders (rare)
Caitlin initially presented with reddening of the skin, severe pain at bite sight, severe itching and mild blistering. After doing some research, I decided to create the following home remedy:
First Aid Tape (for sensitive skin use the paper type)
I melted 1 aspirin in 1 teaspoon vodka. Then added enough baking soda to make a thick (toothpaste consistency) paste. If the paste is too thick, add more vodka. Gently apply a thick coating of the paste on and around the spider bite. Cover the area with a gauze pad and tape in place with first aid tape. I repeated this treatment morning and night for about three days. Within the first 8 hours the pain and itch had greatly subsided. By the third day, the bite had opened and the venom began to ooze out in a clear/bloody discharge. (If at anytime the bite showed signs of infection, I would have promptly taken Caitlin to our Dr. for treatment.) The bite was still somewhat red and you could feel a lump under the skin about the size of a large marble, but there was little to no pain. Once the bite opened and drained, I stopped using the paste and started using triple antibiotic ointment.
Now, a little over a week later, the wound is completely healed and doesn’t show any signs of scarring. I’m sure this remedy would work on most painful insect bites.
Disclaimer: You can use home remedies to treat spider bites, but if bitten by a poisonous spider, it is highly recommended that you also seek medical attention to treat the spider bite before your symptoms get worse.