First Stages of Brown Recluse Bites

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Brown recluse spider
Brown recluse spider (Image: Tung-Tong/iStock/Getty Images)

Why spiders bite

Most spiders aren't dangerous to humans. Out of the more than 20,000 known species of spiders, only 60 can bite humans; four out of those that bite humans can be dangerous or deadly.

One of the four spiders whose bite poses a risk to humans is the brown recluse spider. Brown recluses are typically not aggressive and generally only bites humans as a defense mechanism, usually when a foot, hand or arm accidentally gets too close.

Don't pick up or play with spiders
Don't pick up or play with spiders (Image: jacek_kadaj/iStock/Getty Images)

Spotting a brown recluse spider

Brown recluse spiders have a distinct violin pattern on the back of the middle section of their body, where their legs are attached.

The base of the violin is positioned near the base of the spider's head and the violin's thin neck points to the rear. The small spiders don't have hair and have yellowish-tan to dark brown bodies with darker legs about one inch in length.

Look for a violin shape on the spider's back
Look for a violin shape on the spider's back (Image: TETE3138/iStock/Getty Images)

Immediately after the bite

The spider's venom contains powerful cytotoxins and hemolytic, which are red-blood-cell-destroying compounds. And although initially, the bite is usually not painful, a stinging sensation similar to that felt following a bee sting, is often experienced within the first few minutes following a brown recluse spider bite.

A small white blister can also form.

Blistering can occur
Blistering can occur (Image: littleny/iStock/Getty Images)

Worsening Pain

Additional symptoms typically develop two to eight hours after a brown recluse spider bite. However, symptoms can take as long as 12 hours to develop. Those symptoms include:

Severe pain at the site of the bite Severe itching Nausea Vomiting Fever Muscle pain

Vomiting can be a symptom of spider bite
Vomiting can be a symptom of spider bite (Image: ATIC12/iStock/Getty Images)

A red spot

At first, the bite site will be red. You may even be able to spot tiny fang marks where the spider pierced the skin.

In most instances, the bite spot will harden as it heals; a scar may form within a few days or weeks. However, a more severe local reaction can occur and cause blistering, skin discoloration and death of the skin in the bite location.

Blisters can form
Blisters can form (Image: phototake/iStock/Getty Images)

Treating bites

Because reactions to brown recluse spiders can be sudden and severe, any possible brown recluse spider bite should be evaluated by a health care professional to assess the best course of treatment. And a visit to the doctor or emergency room shouldn't be delayed until symptoms occur; seek medical attention as soon as possible.

If possible, bring the spider to the doctor or emergency room for evaluation.

There's no known anti-venom for brown recluse spider bites available in the U.S., so a doctor may prescribe pain medicine, antihistamines for itch relief or recommend treating the area with ice to decrease pain and swelling.

Seek treatment immediately
Seek treatment immediately (Image: EyeMark/iStock/Getty Images)

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