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  • Spider Bite

    Definition

    • Bite from a spider

    FIRST AID Advice for Shock:

    Lie down with feet elevated.

    FIRST AID Advice for Spider Bite (localized symptoms only):

    • Wash bite wound with soap and water.
    • Use a cold pack to the bite for 10-20 minutes.

    FIRST AID Advice for Black Widow Spider Bite:

    • Wash bite wound with soap and water.
    • Use a cold pack to the bite for 10-20 minutes.
    • If possible, capture the spider and place it in a jar (for spider identification).
    • Do not use heat. Reason: It may increase the pain.
    • Do not use a tourniquet or pressure bandage. Reason: There is no evidence that this helps.

    FIRST AID Advice for Brown Recluse Spider Bite:

    • Wash bite wound with soap and water.
    • Apply a cold pack to the bite for 10-20 minutes.
    • If possible, capture the spider and place it in a jar (for spider identification).

    Symptoms

    • Bite symptoms include redness, pain, swelling
    • Helpful if spider seen on the skin or around the child

    Types of Spider Bites

    Black Widow Spider Bite

    • A shiny, jet-black spider with long legs (total size 1 inch or 25 mm).
    • A red (or orange) hourglass-shaped marking on its under-side.
    • Causes immediate local pain and swelling.
    • Sometimes, you can see 2 fang marks at the bite site.
    • Severe muscle cramps (especially stomach cramps) occur within 1 to 6 hours. These last 24 to 48 hours.
    • Rarely causes death. (EXCEPTION: bitten by several spiders or small child is bitten)
    • Note: Many are dry bites because the fangs are small.
    • The brown widow spider is related to the black widow. It is found in southern US.
    • Brown widow spider bites are treated the same as black widow bites.

    Brown Recluse Spider Bite

    • A brown spider with long legs (total size 1/2 inch or 12 mm).
    • A dark violin shaped marking on top of its head.
    • Causes pain at the bite. Blisters form within 4 to 8 hours.
    • The center becomes bluish and depressed (crater-like) over 2 to 3 days.
    • Skin damage may require skin grafting in 10% of cases.
    • Other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, muscle pain can occur. No life-threatening symptoms occur.
    • Brown recluse spiders are hard to identify. If you can, bring the spider along in a jar.

    Non-dangerous Spider Bites

    • More than 50 spiders in the U.S. have venom. Their bites can cause nonserious reactions. This includes pain or redness at the bite site.
    • The bites are painful and swollen. This lasts for 1 or 2 days. They can feel and look like a bee sting.
    • Some single, unexplained, tender bites that occur during the night are due to spiders.

    When to Call Us for Spider Bite

    Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If:

    • Trouble breathing or wheezing
    • Passed out or too weak to stand
    • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

    Call Us Now (night or day) If:

    • Your child looks or acts very sick
    • Black or brown widow spider bite suspected (see FIRST AID)
    • Stomach pain, chest tightness or other muscle cramps
    • Bite pain is severe and not improved after using care advice
    • Fever and bite looks infected (spreading redness)
    • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

    Call Us Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If:

    • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
    • New redness starts more than 24 hours after the bite. (Note: Any redness in the first 24 hours is due to venom)
    • Over 48 hours since the bite and redness now becoming larger
    • Bite starts to look bad (such as skin damage, blister or purple color)
    • Bite pain lasts more than 2 days

    Call Us During Weekday Office Hours If:

    • You have other questions or concerns

    Parent Care at Home If:

    • Non-serious spider bite

    Care Advice for Non-Dangerous Spider Bites

    What You Should Know:

    • Most spider bites look and feel like a bee sting.
    • The main symptoms are pain and redness.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.

    Cleansing:

    • Wash the bite well with soap and water.

    Cold Pack:

    • For pain or swelling, use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
    • Put it on the bite for 20 minutes.

    Pain Medicine:

    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.

    What to Expect:

    • The swelling and pain lasts for 1 to 2 days.
    • It should not be any worse than a bee sting.

    Call Your Doctor If:

    • Severe bite pain lasts more than 2 hours after pain medicine
    • Stomach pains or muscle cramps occur
    • Bite pain lasts more than 2 days (48 hours)
    • Bite starts to look infected
    • Your child becomes worse

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Copyright 1994-2013 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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