Although many people are afraid of spiders, they rarely bite people unless threatened. Most spider bites are harmless. Occasionally, spider bites can cause allergic reactions. Some spiders can bite dozens of times. If you notice a lot of small red dots all in the same general area, chances are you were bitten by a spider.
Bites by the venomous black widow and brown recluse spiders can be very dangerous to people. You should know what these two spiders look like just in case you or someone you encounter is bitten by one.
If you are bitten by a spider, you may see a reaction similar to that of a bee sting, including redness, pain and swelling at the site. To treat a spider bite:
- Wash the area well with soap and water
- Apply an ice pack or a wet compress to the area
- Take over-the-counter pain medicine, if needed
- Consider using antihistamines for severe swelling
- Seek medical treatment for small children and adults with severe symptoms
BLACK WIDOW SPIDER
Black widow spiders are found throughout North America, but are most common in the southern and western areas of the United States. Only the female spiders are poisonous. An adult black widow spider is about 1/2″ long. They are identified by the pattern of red coloration on the underside of their abdomen. They are usually found in workplaces containing undisturbed areas such as woodpiles, under eaves, fences, and other areas where debris has accumulated. They may also be found living in outdoor toilets where flies are plentiful.
Black widow spiders build webs between objects, and bites usually occur when humans come into direct contact with these webs. A bite from a black widow can be distinguished from other insect bites by the two puncture marks it makes in the skin. The venom is a neurotoxin that produces pain at the bite area and then spreads to the chest, abdomen, or the entire body.
SIGNS – A mild pinprick followed by intense muscle cramping with pain moving to the chest, back, legs, arms, and abdomen. In severe cases the victim may have difficulty breathing. Fatalities do occur but not often, particularly in children under 3 years of age and adults older than 55. Once treated by a medical professional, most people recover within 36 to 72 hours.
BROW RECLUSE SPIDER
The brown recluse spider, also known as the violin spider, is most commonly found in the Midwestern and southern states of the United States. It is brown in color with a characteristic dark violin-shaped (or fiddle-shaped) marking on its head and has six equal-sized eyes (most spiders have eight eyes). Brown recluse spiders are usually found in workplaces with secluded, dry, sheltered areas such as underneath structures logs, or in piles of rocks or leaves. If a brown recluse spider wanders indoors, they may be found in dark closets, shoes, or attics.
The brown recluse spider cannot bite humans without some form of counter pressure, for example, through unintentional contact that traps the spider against the skin. Bites may cause a stinging sensation with localized pain. A small white blister usually develops at the site of the bite. The venom of a brown recluse can cause a severe lesion by destroying skin tissue (skin necrosis). This skin lesion will require professional medical attention.
SIGNS – The bite is usually painless. Swelling and inflammation occur within 1 to 2 hours. After 6 to 12 hours, a bulls-eye with blistering or redness appears. The area resembles a cigarette burn. If the area grows larger, the skin and tissue can die.
Symptoms associated with spider bites can vary from minor to severe. Although extremely rare, death can occur in the most severe cases. Possible symptoms resulting from a spider bite include the following:
- Itching or rash
- Pain radiating from the site of the bite
- Muscle pain or cramping
- Reddish to purplish color or blister
- Increased sweating
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety or restlessness
- High blood pressure
Workers should take the following steps if they are bitten by a spider:
- Stay calm. Identify the type of spider if it is possible to do so safely. Identification will aid in medical treatment.
- Wash the bite area with soap and water.
- Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to the bite area to reduce swelling.
- Elevate bite area if possible.
- Do not attempt to remove venom.
- Notify your supervisor.
- Immediately seek professional medical attention.
We also offer a free certificate of completion. To receive the certificate you must pass a 50-question test with a score of 70 or higher. Check our Basic First Aid Certificate of Completion page for more information.