Doctor's Notes on Brown Recluse Spider Bites
Brown recluse spiders are small, yellow to tan, non-hairy spiders with a characteristic violin pattern on the back of the cephalothorax (the body part where the legs attach). These spiders are not aggressive and bite only when threatened, but their venom is extremely poisonous and causes tissue death in the area of the bite.
Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite include severe pain at the site and redness of the area:
- Sometimes there is a purple or blue area around the bite that is surrounded by a whitish ring and a large outer ring in a bull's eye pattern.
- Eventually, a blister forms at the site of the bite and sloughs off to leave a deep ulcer that may turn black.
Associated symptoms may include:
What Is the Treatment for Brown Recluse Spider Bites?
Children who are bitten by a brown recluse spider should receive immediate medical attention. Adults may be able to be safely treated at home.
If an adult has mild symptoms from the bite:
- Apply antibiotic cream after cleaning the area with soap and water.
- Apply ice packs or cold compresses to the area.
- If an arm or leg is affected, keep it elevated when resting.
If more serious symptoms develop, including trouble breathing, extreme pain, blister or ulcer formation, or apparent infection at the site of the bite, seek medical attention. A tetanus shot or antibiotics may be needed.
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Black Widow and Brown Recluse Spider BiteBlack widow spider and brown recluse spider bites in the wilderness present a medical emergency. If bitten by either of these spiders, seek medical attention immediately. Anti-venom is one treatment for a black widow spider bite. There is no anti-venom for a brown recluse spider bite.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.