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Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Most spiders are harmless to people. However, there are two spiders in America that are dangerous: the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. The bite of a Brown Recluse can cause severe local skin damage and serious illness. Children are most strongly affected.

The Brown Recluse spider lives in the Midwest and Southeastern states. Other types of Recluse spiders live in Texas, Arizona and California. These cause only mild to moderate skin injury.

These spiders live in attics, closets, porches, barns, basements and woodpiles. They are brown and about 1 inch long (including legs). They have a dark violin-shaped marking on their back. Venom is injected with a pair of fangs. It is very toxic to the skin, kidneys and the blood system.

The bite is usually painless at first (or may burn slightly like a bee sting). Most people do not know they were bitten until 1-4 hours later when the site becomes red, very painful and itchy. A blister may form. Nausea, vomiting, fever and chills may also occur. Within 48 hours, the blister may flatten, turn black and sink down as the tissue below dies. A large open ulcer may appear within four days after the bite. Once an ulcer occurs it may take months to heal. Skin grafting may be needed. In the most severe cases there may be kidney damage, fluid in the lungs and failure of the blood to clot normally. In rare cases, death has occurred in children under 7 years of age.

Home Care:

  1. Keep the bite area clean and dry.

  2. If you were bitten on the arm or leg, keep it raised. Swelling may worsen in the down position.

  3. During the first 24 hours, you may apply an ice pack (ice cubes in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel) for 20 minutes at a time every 1-2 hours to reduce pain and swelling. Lanacaine cream or Solarcaine spray (or other product containing benzocaine) may also be used.

  4. Wash the wound once a day with soap and water. Apply any medicines prescribed.

  5. You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. [NOTE: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.]

Follow Up

with your doctor or this facility as advised. The bite area must be observed closely during the first several days.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • An ulcer (open sore) appears at the bite site

  • Fever over 100.4°F (38.0°C) more than two days after the bite

  • Spreading area of redness around the bite

  • Drainage from the wound

  • A red streak in the skin leading away from the wound

  • Shortness of breath, dark urine or decreased urine output, abnormal bleeding