Distinguishing between the bite marks of a mosquito and spider is critical to determining the suitable mode of treatment — and even more important, in determining if the bite may pose health risks. Numerous differences exist between a mosquito bite and a spider bite — from the look and symptoms to the subsequent treatment.
Mosquito bites are identified by small red bumps on the skin which sometimes appear as red dots. Typically, several red dots scatter over an exposed area of the skin, as mosquitoes tend to feed repeatedly until full, although a single red bite might also be a mosquito. For spider bites, the puncture wound depends on the spider species that made the mark. The usual characteristic of a spider bite is likened to that of a bull’s-eye. A small blister forms at the center of the bite surrounded by a larger, reddish abscess; bites are generally bordered by a pale-colored circle. Normally, there is only a single bite mark since a spider will bite only once for defense and then escape.
Mosquito bites usually bring about itchiness and minor swelling over the affected area. The red marks disappear after a few days. Serious symptoms, such as fever, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle pains and swollen glands may indicate an acute infection. It is possible that the person may contract a disease from the mosquito, although this is a rarity within the U.S. Spider bites also bring about itchiness and swelling. Some also cause burning and stinging sensations due to the venom injected. People may have different reactions to a spider bite; some may feel only mild discomfort, while others might suffer from severe pain and general feelings of illness, such as nausea, headache, vomiting, fever, muscle and joint pains, rapid pulse and exhaustion.
Medical attention is rarely required for mosquito bites unless serious symptoms occur. Applying topical lotions, like calamine, can soothe most minor symptoms. For spider bites, cleanse the affected area using soap and water. Applying a cold compress on the wound will help decrease the redness and swelling, and elevating the area will slow down the movement of the venom. Antibiotic lotion or cream may be administered sparingly to prevent infection.
Mosquitoes — in some parts of the world — are common carriers of life-threatening diseases, such as malaria, encephalitis, yellow fever and dengue fever. Venom from most spider bites is minimal and rarely results in serious complications in most instances. In the U.S., the only spiders that inflict what are considered medically significant bites are the black widow and brown recluse. The probability of serious health complications from spider bites increases for infants and young children, the elderly and people with existing health problems.