Most spiders are poisonous. They use their poison to paralyze and kill their prey. About 60 species of spiders in North America can bite a human. Fortunately, only a few species can cause significant poisonings. Death rarely occurs. However, bites from the black widow and brown recluse spiders have been known to cause death.
Black Widow Spider
The body of the female black widow is shaped like an hourglass. She is a dark color with red or yellow on the abdomen. Black widow spiders are found in all 48 contiguous states. Only the female is dangerous. The male is too small to bite through human skin.
The bite itself often goes unno¬ticed or may be felt as a pin¬prick. Black widow spider venom is very potent. It attacks the muscles in humans. Symptoms are often severe muscle pain and cramping.
Brown Recluse Spider
The brown recluse spider is also known as the fiddle-back or violin spider. A violin-shaped marking on the back helps to identify it. Both the male and female are dangerous.
It is rare to see the brown recluse spider when it bites because the bite is painless. Most bites happen while the person is sleeping. Reactions to a bite from a brown recluse vary. They range from mild irritation at the bite site to a potentially fatal poisoning.
What to Look For:
- Tiny fang marks
- Pain begins as a dull ache at the bite site
- Pain spreads to the surrounding muscles
- Pain moves to the abdomen, back, chest, and legs
- Blister at the bite site
- Mild swelling and a blue-gray mark at the bite surrounded by lightening of skin color
- Progressive soft tissue damage; the skin becomes dark blue and then black (necrotic)
First Aid Care for Spider Bites
- If you suspect that your child has been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider, call EMS. Wash the bite area with soap and rinse with water.
- Cover the area with a cloth and apply ice or a cold pack. This will help relieve pain and delay the effects of the venom. (Always protect the skin by wrapping ice or a cold pack in a thin cloth. Direct contact of extreme cold on the skin can cause tissue damage.)
- Call the Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222).