Waking up with a painful mystery in your body can be a heartbreaking feeling, especially when a dozen possible culprits start running through your mind. made onemosquitofell on your leg during the campfire last night? HaveBedbugsinvaded? Or, perhaps the scarier possibility, an unwanted arachnid having a snack with you? Strange as it may seem,spider bitesThey're not as common as you might think, but they do happen.
Some of them are completely harmless, just causing a bit of redness and swelling, and heal after a few days, while other venomous bites can cause serious complications, especially if you don't see a doctor right away.
How do you know if you've been bitten by a spider, and by the way, a dangerous spider? We called in a doctor and entomologists for advice on what to look for, and gathered photos to give you an idea of what spider bites can look like. Here's how to spot them and what to do if you're unlucky enough to fall prey.
What is a spider bite like? Are there typical symptoms?
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If you are bitten and see a spider running away, it is most likely the offender. If you haven't seen any creatures, the source may be more difficult to identify. "With a few exceptions, it's very difficult, even for medical professionals, to positively identify a bite or skin irritation as a spider bite," explains Nancy Troyano, Ph.D., a board-certified medical entomologist.Ehrlich Pest Control. And the fact is true for many insect bites. However, there are some indications that it could be from a spider:
✔️ Two small holes:Spiders have two fangs, so you can see two small holes in the center of the bite, he says.Howard Russel, MS, an entomologist at Michigan State University.
✔️Redness and swelling:When a spider bites, foreign proteins from its saliva are injected into its skin, Troyano explains. This can cause a localized reaction similar to what can occur if you have amosquito biteoBee sting. You may have swelling, redness, or irritation around the sting site.
✔️ Mild pain:As for the feeling, Trojan says that most people compare it to how you would feel when you get stung by a bee, so it's not fun.
✔️ Possible itching:This symptom depends on how you personally react to an insect bite, but some spider bites can cause the compound histamine to be released into your body and that can cause itchiness, he says.Dr. Nick Kman, an emergency physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
In the US, there are two types of spiders that can cause more serious reactions: the brown recluse and the black widow.
Brown recluse spider bites
Obrown recluse- also known as a fiddler or fiddler spider - has a distinctive fiddle-shaped marking that starts at the top of its head and runs down its back. It is also identified by its six eyes instead of the typical eight. It likes to hide in houses, preferably in dark, quiet areas like closets, shoe or basements, and sheds, most commonly in the Midwestern and southern states, according to the report.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
the coffeerecluseit cannot bite a human without "some type of counter pressure," according to the CDC; For example, you put your foot in a shoe and catch it. However, their bite can be extremely painful if you receive one. “In the case of 90% of brown recluse bites, the reactions are not serious, but they can be,” says Troyano. “If the spider bite includes a large enough dose of hemotoxic venom, it can causenecrotic heridesor injuries that can take months to heal or require surgical repair. This can appear as awhite blister or discolored ulcerand cause other system-wide symptoms such as muscle aches and fever.
Reactions to a brown recluse spider bite can also vary depending on the health and age of the person bitten, Troyano says. For an elderly or diabetic person who may be immunosuppressed, healing from a bite may be more difficult than for someone with a healthier immune system.
Black widow spider bites
Identifying a black widow is easy: it has a glossy black exterior with a bright red hourglass-shaped marking on its underbelly. Unfortunately, black widow spiders like to hang out in homes, particularly in the southern and western parts of the US.
You can usually find them in garages or job sites with a lot of debris. Black widows tend to build webs where there are lots of corners, edges, or tall grass, and accidentally tripping over one is when they are most likely to bite.
Black widow bites are also rare "but can be extremely dangerous, even deadly," says Troyano. If a black widow bites you, you'll knowtwo distinct puncture marks and you may experience burning, redness, and swellingat the site of the bite, and this can eventually spread to other parts of the body,the CDC says. Unlike other spider bites, the black widow's bite injects neurotoxic venom, which can cause muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, sweating, tremors, and weakness.
If you go to the ER right away, you should be fine. “Approximately 2,200 bites are reported each year, but there has not been a widow-related death in the US since 1983,” says Marc Potzler, a certified entomologist and manager of technical services atEhrlich Pest Control.
How to treat a spider bite
Russell says that spider bites don't require anything more than you would for one.mosquito biteor bee sting, how to wash the wound and usehydrocortisone cream. You can also apply ice to the bite to minimize swelling. And, if he finds that the bite itches, Dr. Kman recommends taking an antihistamine likeBenadryloZyrtec.
But if you suspect you've been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow, don't take it seriously. If you notice any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible, as they could also be signs of an infection:
- The bite site is warm to the touch.
- The bite site turns into a wound or wound.
- You have a fever.
- You have signs of anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue or airways, dizziness, loss of consciousness).
- You have moderate to excessive swelling.
- You have any neurological symptoms, such as muscle spasms, nausea, vomiting, sweating, tremors, or weakness.
If you've actually seen the spider that bit you, Trojan recommends trying to capture it and place it in a plastic bag so you can show your doctor if you need to see one.
So how long do spider bites last?
If you're bitten by a usually harmless spider, the reaction will be "fairly immediate and will happen within the first 24 hours," says Troyano. “Most go away after a few days.” However, the healing process may take longer if the bite area becomes infected (often manifested by excessive swelling, pain, and a warm sensation to the touch).
In the case of a brown recluse or black widow bite, it can take weeks for it to heal properly, depending on the severity of the reaction or if an infection occurs.
Why do spiders bite?
Most types of spiders do not go out of their way to bite humans. "Spiders are blamed for a lot of skin irritations that aren't their fault," says Troyano. And when they do bite, it's in self-defense: "a last resort to protect yourself," he adds.
Spiders also bite to paralyze their prey, and even if it's not you, there can be situations where acommon house spider(such as a jumping spider or wolf spider) may mistake you for lunch or feel like you're threatening them even if you're not trying to fight them.
There is one possible exception, however: Yellow sac spiders, pale yellow or beige spiders that like to build tent-like structures out of silk, are considered "recreational biters," meaning they "bite us." just for fun," Russell says.
Even so, spider bites are still very rare. You are much more likely to be bitten by otherscommon household insectssuch as mosquitoes, ants or flies.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work published in Men's Health, Women's Health, Self, Glamor, and more. She has a master's degree from American University, lives on the beach, and hopes to one day own a teacup pig and a taco truck.