Most spider bites go relatively unnoticed with little more than slight irritation at the site before healing rapidly. Other bites of a more serious nature are slow-healing and may require medical attention. You can treat most wounds in the comfort of your own home. Following basic sanitary guidelines will help ensure you keep the wound from developing an infection and can offer a bit of pain relief for your discomfort. In the case of more serious bites, a visit to a doctor’s office may be needed.
General Treatment for Common Bites
Most spiders are not dangerous, and you may treat the bite at home instead of going to the physician. First, gently clean the wound using soap and water, dry well and apply an antiseptic or rubbing alcohol to sterilize the site. Be careful not to break the skin as this may lead to infection or cause more damage to the wound. If the skin is already broken and irritated, you may apply an antibacterial ointment if desired and cover with a small bandage. Keep an eye on the wound if you are unsure of the type of spider that caused it, as symptoms can rapidly change for the worse.
For pain relief, apply an ice pack to the affected area, no more than 20 minutes at a time with a 20 minute break in between. If you are still in pain, you may take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. In some cases, an antihistamine such as Benadryl may help relieve itching symptoms; you may also apply Hydrocortisone cream or Calamine lotion to help with the discomfort.
If you know or suspect you have been bitten by a spider such as a black widow, brown reclusive or a hobo spider or if you have an extreme reaction to a bite that seems out of the ordinary, go to an urgent care or emergency room to have the bite looked at. Some spiders are more venomous than others, and you may require medical treatment. Clean the site with soap and water before leaving for the doctor to help mitigate the spread of infection.
Black widow bites can be lethal to young children and the elderly; an anti-venom may be administered if you have been bitten by one. The black widow bite feels like a small, sharp pain that is quickly followed by burning, swelling and redness at the site. Since black widow venom is a neurotoxin, symptoms such as cramping and muscle pain may occur in addition to headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and, in severe cases, seizures. Black widows are black, approximately 1/2 inch long and have a red to yellowish-orange hourglass or round marking on the underside of the abdomen.
Both the brown recluse spider, also known as the violin or fiddleback spider and the hobo spider have cytotoxic venom that can cause slow-healing, deep ulcerations and the quick development of necrotic tissue. A blister will form at the site and often the entire area will swell with an intense red color within 12 to 24 hour after the bite. Deep blue or purple color around the site is an indication of necrotic tissue—if noticed, go immediately to the hospital. The hobo spider bite is less intense than that of the brown recluse, but those bitten may develop dizziness, weakness and vision distortion. Some who are bitten by the brown recluse have extreme reactions to the venom and may develop a red or purple body rash, joint discomfort, vomiting or become rapidly anemic.