Getting bitten by a spider could be very serious. But before you panic, remember that not all spiders are dangerous. These tiny creatures bite for self-defense. By nature, spiders do not attack creatures larger than themselves. But they may bite humans when they get pressed up or when spiders mistake human body parts (such as fingers) for small insects.
If you have been bitten by a spider, remain calm and check the following to determine if you need emergency medical care.
Identify the Spider (If Possible)
There are two spider species that are very poisonous and can cause harmful or even fatal reaction to the bitten person. These are the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider. Both spiders love warm surroundings.
Black Widow Spider
The black widow spider belongs to the Latrodectus family of spiders. These spiders are small, shiny, black, button-shaped with a red abdomen mark that resembles an hourglass.
A black widow spider bite is very poisonous because the widow spider releases “latrotoxin” and causes a condition called lactrodectism. The female black widow is more venomous than the male because it contains bigger venom glands. Immediate medical attention is needed when bitten by a black widow spider.
The symptoms for black widow bite depend on the body area, the amount of venom or toxin released and the body sensitivity to the bite. In many cases, the venom can be very painful when it affects the nervous system.
Watch out for these signs of black widow bite:
- Stinging sensation that is usually mild or painless
- Mild swelling just around the small bite marks
- Numbing pain that develops from the bite size to the back and abdomen immediately an hour after being bitten
- Painful abdominal cramping or rigidity of the abdomen muscles
Sometimes, the whole body is affected and may manifest systemic symptoms such as severe pain of the muscles and joints, as well as the back and abdomen, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, restlessness, hypertension, chilling and fever, swelling of the face, rashes and difficulty in breathing.
Pain may be felt within the next 12 hours. After several days, the symptoms may go away but feeling of weakness may still persist.
Brown Recluse Spider
The brown recluse spider (BRS) is easily identifiable because of its violin-shaped mark on its back. Thus, the BRS is known by such nicknames as fiddleback spider, brown fiddler, or violin spider. It belongs to Loxosceles recluse family. Like the black widow, the brown recluse spider has a venomous bite.
If a person is bitten by a brown recluse spider, he can feel a mild stinging sensation and red mark on the area of the bite and painful swelling within the next 8 hours. Slight fever, rashes, nausea and restlessness are the common symptoms. Bitten children may die when left untreated, although such cases are rare.
Apply First Aid
Poisoning from spider bites can be avoided. Follow these first aid treatments for spider bites:
- Identify what type of spider bit the person.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water to cleanse it.
- Cold compress should be applied over the affected area.
- If bite area is on an extremity, try to elevate it.
- Take acetaminophen like aspirin and antihistamines to relieve minor signs in adults but take precaution when giving aspirin to children or teenagers.
- Monitor the bite for any changes or if symptoms worsen within 24 hours.
- Seek medical help when symptoms of allergic reaction manifest.
What to Do After Applying First Aid
After identifying the spider that bit a person, give the appropriate spider bite treatment.
- Call 911 or your local emergency service if a person has been bitten by a venomous spider and the victim is experiencing allergic reactions, such as difficulty of breathing, nausea and feeling of weakness.
- Clean the wound or bite area thoroughly.
- Apply cold compress or ice pack to the affected area.
- Take acetaminophen and antihistamines to relieve minor symptoms.
- Elevate the arm or leg to slow down the spread of the spider venom. Also, avoid moving the victim to slow down the venom.
- Tie a snug above the spider bite, but take caution not to cut off the blood circulation.
- Take the person to the doctor for further medical treatment if symptoms persist within 36 hours. Antivenom and hospitalization may be required.
Aside from the regular treatment routing-elevation and immobilization of the effected extremity, application of cold pack, local bite or wound cleansing and tetanus prophylaxis, other spider bite treatment can be applied. These include hyperbaric oxygen, dapsone, antibiotics, dextran, glucocorticoids, vasodilators, heparin, nitroglycerin, electric shock, curettage and surgical excision.
Risk Factors of Spider Bites
Although rare, severe complications like coma, kidney failure and death can result from a spider bite. Still infants and young children, adults who are 60 years and more, and those with heart condition are at high risk and must be cautious.
So the best thing to do is to stay away from areas where you can get bitten by spiders (such as tall grasses and wood piles). Wear protective clothing when handling stacked piles of materials. Inspect your clothing, shoes or anything before using them. Store your clothes and equipment in closed plastic bags.