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Brown Recluse Bite: Pictures, Stages, Symptoms & Treatment

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Surprisingly, most spiders found in the United States aren't capable of puncturing human skin. Two exceptions to this are the black widow and the brown recluse. Brown recluse spiders, found in the southern U.S. states, can bite and the wounds can lead to several health complications. Spider bites are rare, however. Most reported cases of spider bites turn out to actually be skin infection or a bite from another insect. Bites from brown recluse spiders are usually on the hands, arms, or legs and happen when the spider accidentally bumps into a person and bites to protect itself.

Brown recluse spiders tend to live in warm, dry locations with minimal activity, such as basements, attics, below sinks, or beneath woodpiles and gardening supplies.

It is easy to identify a brown recluse spider: They have a distinct, violin-shaped mark in the center of their backs (they are sometimes called violin spiders.) They are relatively small in size. Male adults can grow up to an inch.

Their bite is a severe medical condition that requires urgent medical attention.

Signs of a Brown Recluse Bite

A bite from a brown recluse spider can cause severe symptoms and lead to considerable damage, including:

  • A rash, confusion, and/or mild fever or malaise.
  • Pain in the abdomen, pain or stiffness in the joints, headaches, fever, feeling of being unwell, cramping or increased tenseness of muscles, and vomiting.
  • Rarely, fatality. Children however are at greater risk because of their small body size.

Stages of a Recluse Spider Bite

The first stage is reddening and stinging at the bite site. Sometimes the skin may become thick and puffy. This stage may last a few seconds or a few hours.

The first stage is reddening and stinging at the bite site. Sometimes the skin may become thick and puffy. This stage may last a few seconds or a few hours.

Brown recluse spider bites go through three stages, all within the first 24 hours after the bite.

  1. Stinging and Redness The bite will initially cause a stinging sensation. This is caused by the discharge of spider venom into the blood. The stinging may disappear after a few seconds or it may last for many hours. The sensation is accompanied by redness and inflammation of the site. It may also cause a thickening and puffiness of the affected skin.
  2. Pain Patients may experience extreme pain during the second stage, typically about eight hours after the bite. The pain may become excruciating over time. It is caused by the absorption of poison by the muscle tissues.
  3. Blister development and ulceration The final stage appears after approximately 24 hours and is characterized by the formation of a blister at the location of the spider bite. Later, the blister thickens and crusts over leaving an open wound which ultimately develops into a large ulcer. Such ulcers do not heal easily. Left untreated, they can result in secondary infections.

Spider Bite Two Months Later

A recluse spider bite after two months. The flesh in the area of the bite is necrotized and was removed a month later.

A recluse spider bite after two months. The flesh in the area of the bite is necrotized and was removed a month later.

Treating a Recluse Spider Bite

Treating a Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Follow these self-care guidelines to alleviate symptoms:

  • Thoroughly wash the area with cool water and an antiseptic soap.
  • If possible, elevate the affected area over the level of the heart.
  • Do not engage in any physical activity as it will spread the spider’s toxins through the body.
  • Wrap an ice pack with a towel and apply to the bite to relieve swelling and pain. You may also take a pain medication like Ibuprofen. Do not take aspirin as it thins the blood.
  • Consult a doctor. If required, the physician may give a tetanus booster shot.
  • If possible, bring the culprit spider to the doctor for identification and investigation.

Avoid the below under all circumstances:

  • Heat or warm compressors.
  • A cut to the affected tissue or use of suction gadgets to remove spider poison
  • Hydrocortisone or other steroid creams on the site of the spider bite.
  • Electricity to the affected site can result in secondary burns and aggravate the destruction of tissue.

Hospitalization is rarely required. It is however important for patients to go for regular checkups until the wound has completely healed.

Scarring From Spider Bite Ulcers

Scars left over from healed brown recluse spider bites.

Scars left over from healed brown recluse spider bites.

Comments

Karen Garner on May 08, 2020:

I was bitten 25 years ago by brown recluse spider. Took a long time for the bite area to heal going through several stages. Fast forward 25 years, the scaring flared up again with less intensity than the first time. Once again my skin died in the area but healed once again. Has anyone else ever had that experience???

Kelly Ann Christensen from Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas on December 29, 2019:

Your articles sure are disgusting, but I'm enjoying them! lol We have brown recluse spiders here in the Midwest, too. One online article instructs people to use mint to repell spiders, but there was mint planted along one side of the house where my apartment was downstairs in Mission, that these or similar spiders absolutely LOVED. They loved it while it was growing, and look out after it dried because it was a spider metropolis. When I first moved in I was literally killing 10-12 spiders a day! Thank goodness I got it under control.

In any case, I appreciate the detailed medical advice regarding what to do in the unfortunate circumstance that someone is bitten by one of these.

Jamie from Omaha, NE on September 01, 2017:

shaped like a penny, blistery and infection has set in. Its eating my skin and the itch is a torture... day after my whole left side of face was blown up... I need some advice please. I think this is a brown recluse... very hard around the bite

Sue wing on July 05, 2017:

My husband got a bite I used wound care xero petroleum guaze everyday ! It's closed the wound and staph plus on 2 antiobotics ! 2 times a day clean the affected area with soap and water then use sterile water rinse the area and apply the xero petroleum guaze ! It took 8 weeks to close but worked !

sandy on April 22, 2017:

I think I was bit by a spider today it had a puncture mark and was swollen and about 8 hrs later there was a blister that I punctured to get the poison out so now it looks like two bites. Im nervous should I go to the doctor

Jorge badillo on August 04, 2016:

Please Tell me what this is

Sherry on June 04, 2016:

It's the 7th day today, is it ok to apply granules?

drpaul007 on July 23, 2015:

I agree with venom er, along with the proven fact that one can render the venom as non-invasive by the use of electrical stimuli. Do your own research rather then repeat what others have stated as incorrect.

Venom ER on July 17, 2015:

Please remove these photos. Most are not related to brown recluse bites in the least. For example the Lyme Disease erythema migrans "bulls-eye" followed by a photo of an infected black widow bite. Next time, please do some research before posting "credible" information, okay?

emily on June 26, 2015:

Now I know how bad the biteis and how to treate it

Chicken man on May 23, 2015:

y am i reading dis

guy on May 20, 2015:

One of those is not a spider bite.

jack on April 29, 2015:

ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!!