Spider Bites

What is a Spider Bite?

Most spider bites are not harmful and the venom from a bite may produce mild symptoms that disappear in a few days. Individuals who are bitten by a brown recluse or a black widow spider often have severe symptoms and these bites can be dangerous.

The reason why a spider bites a human is because it feels threatened and biting is the only way it can protect itself. To prevent spider bites, individuals should look for the presence of spiders in places where they often live, such as boxes, dark rooms and outside in woody areas.

What are the Symptoms of a Spider Bite?

Mild spider bite symptoms include swelling, itching or burning around the area of the bite. When individuals are bitten by a poisonous spider these symptoms often include an upset stomach, vomiting, abdominal pain, chills, fever, sweating and painful or stiff joints. Some people experience muscle spasms, extreme pain at the location of the bite and breathing difficulties.

Poisonous spider bites can also cause sores on the skin and the tissue around the bite area may disintegrate. Individuals who have an allergic reaction to a spider bite may possibly go into anaphylactic shock. The symptoms of this condition include wheezing, facial swelling and becoming unconscious.

Spider Bite Causes

Spiders do not feed on humans and often do not even consume flesh. Contrary to popular media, the most common reason for a spider bite is because a spider feels threatened by a person and simply doesn’t have a way to escape from their perceived threat. In these situations, the spider will try to bite as a defensive measure. Most of these bites will not penetrate the skin or leave lasting marks.

Symptoms associated with a spider bite come about because of the spider’s venom entering the body, and this depends on the type of spider and the individual’s reaction to the venom. The chances of falling victim to a spider bite vary greatly depending on where one lives and what sort of activities one is involved in. People who live in rural or tropical areas are more likely to receive spider bites and more likely to receive bites from potentially lethal species of spiders. People who live in quiet and dark houses are often more likely to be bit by spiders because spiders prefer dark and quiet dwellings.

How is a Spider Bite Treated?

Treatment for mild symptoms due to a spider bite can be done at home. Individuals should first wash the bite area with soap and water. A cold compress or ice may be placed on the bite to relieve discomfort. If necessary, individuals can take a store bought pain medication.

It is best not to scratch a spider bite as this can cause the wound to become infected. If this does occur, a doctor can prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. If the symptoms do not improve within 24 hours or if they become worse, individuals should see a doctor. Those who are having an allergic reaction must get medical treatment as quickly as possible.

Spider Bite Prevention

The most important thing anyone can do in order to prevent spider bites is to avoid spiders and exercise caution in areas where you are likely to encounter them. This means one should always be careful at night, in sheds and garages, basements and attics, and disused areas where they may be living, and when out in the wilderness or tropical regions. However, there are extra steps everyone can take in order to make sure they are kept safe from spider bites. Avoiding direct contact with dangerous types and not aggravating spiders you find, as well as checking your clothing for spiders before putting it on can do wonders to prevent spider bites. In particular, spiders are very fond of shoes and hats.

An important but often forgotten fact about spiders is that, while they may not view your entire body as a potential food source, they can be confused into believing fingers are actually a source of food. To avoid falling victim to spiders, you should not stick your fingers near spiders. They may think you are in fact edible and try to attack you. If you have been bitten by a spider and were not sure whether it was poisonous or you have an adverse reaction to spider venom, you can prevent worsening of your symptoms by seeking medical care immediately.

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Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
November 20, 2017