Signs & Symptoms of Brown Recluse Spider Bites

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Signs & Symptoms of Brown Recluse Spider Bites
Signs & Symptoms of Brown Recluse Spider Bites (Image: BR-Recluse-Guy:Wikimedia.org,MCV55:Wikimedia.org,Chaldor:Wikimedia.org, Afroswede:Flickr.com/creativecommons)

The brown recluse spider is native to the southern-central regions of the United States. The brown recluse, or violin spider, is named for its brown color, reclusive nature and the distinctive violin shape on its back. This spider is a non-aggressive spider that bites only when disturbed. However, the bite of a brown recluse can produce several symptoms varying in intensity. People who are sensitive to the venom of a brown recluse will experience a severe reaction. Other people may be bitten and only develop a small bite mark that will heal on its own.

Immediate Symptoms

Immediately during or immediately after the bite, the victim may feel a slight pricking sensation similar to an ant bite. Other victims of a brown recluse bite experience a severe stinging sensation that is quickly followed by intense pain, nausea, vomiting, chills and potentially shock.

Delayed Symptoms

The bite of a brown recluse spider may go unnoticed for hours or even days after the bite. The victim may notice a white fluid-filled blister surrounded by a red and swollen area. The skin around the blister may become hard to the touch. The blister will slowly turn into a concave, black lesion that can be up to 2 inches in diameter. The lesion will have jagged edges and the surrounding area will develop patches of blue and red skin. Essentially, the victim is experiencing necrosis, or death of the tissue. Often, the patient is unaware that a brown recluse bite has occurred, and will wait until this point to seek medical attention.

Brown recluse bite with necrosis.
Brown recluse bite with necrosis.

At the Hospital

The doctor will evaluate your lesion and symptoms. There is no way that a doctor can diagnose a brown recluse bite without seeing the spider that bit you. If your doctor suspects you have been bitten by a brown recluse, your symptoms will be treated as they arise. Death from a brown recluse bite is rare, although recovery can be lengthy and uncomfortable.

Recovery

Once your symptoms begin to plateau, usually 48 hours after the bite, you will begin the process of recovery. Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial infection. Pain, fever and chills will be treated symptomatically. Necrosis can be slight or severe. If you have severe tissue death, your doctor may want to remove the dead tissues and graft skin onto the area.

A small spider with a big bite.
A small spider with a big bite.

Avoiding Brown Recluse Bites

It is important to understand the nature of a brown recluse to avoid the bite of one. Brown recluses do not like to interact with other creatures. Therefore, they make webs in secluded places were they can catch food without being disturbed. To avoid disturbing the spiders, use a flashlight in while in dark places such as a basement or attic. Shake out any laundry that has been stored for the season and wash it thoroughly. Avoid walking in tall grass or through ground-cover plants such as ivy without long pants and protective shoes.

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