Spider Bites: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Close up of a colorful spider ready to bite.

Close up of a colorful spider ready to bite.

Spiders are classified as arachnids, have been around for a long time, like millions of years, and come in all shapes and sizes.

Even though most spiders are benign, some have bites that can be lethal or cause serious health consequences.

Types of Spiders That Bite

A lot of spiders bite humans, but only a few are really dangerous. The ones that are known to bite include:

  • Black widow spiders
  • Brown recluse spiders
  • Wolf spiders
  • Yellow sac spiders
  • Hobo spiders
  • Jumping spiders

Symptoms of Spider Bites

Spider bite symptoms can vary depending on the type of spider and how the person reacts. Some common symptoms of spider bites include:

  • Redness and swelling around the bite.
  • Pain or itching at the bite site.
  • Muscle pain or cramps.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Difficulty breathing.

Treatment of Spider Bites

Some people treat their mild bites with over-the-counter pain meds. Regardless, if you have been bitten and are unsure what bit you, you should seek the advice of your doctor.

Common treatments for a mild bite include:

Wash the bite site with water and soap to prevent infection.

  • Apply an ice pack to the bite site to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
  • Elevate the affected limb to help reduce swelling.
  • Over-the-counter pain meds that may help reduce pain include ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Take antihistamines, such as Benadryl, to reduce itching and swelling.

Seek medical attention immediately if you start to experience severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, muscle cramps, or fever. A doctor can provide medical treatments such as antivenom if necessary.

A doctor may do the following:

  • Clean the bite site to prevent infection.
  • Provide strong pain medication.
  • Inject antivenom if necessary.
  • Monitor and document your heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs.
  • Administer intravenous fluids or oxygen therapy.

It’s important to follow the doctor’s orders and report changes immediately. With prompt treatment, most people recover from spider bites.

Prevention of Spider Bites

Just play it safe and avoid contact with spiders if you see one. Tips to help prevent spider bites include:

  • Keep your home free of clutter and clean
  • Seal any cracks and gaps in doors, windows, and walls
  • Use insect repellent when spending time outdoors
  • Consider long-sleeved shirts and pants when spending time in areas where spiders may be present
  • Shake out your clothing and footwear before putting them on

What to Do if Bitten by a Spider

If a spider bites you, don’t panic. Wash the bite with water and soap and use an ice pack to help reduce swelling and relieve any pain. Seek medical attention if the symptoms are severe or if you are unsure of what bit you.

By far, the biggest mistake most bite victims make is delaying treatment! Some people feel embarrassed to seek medical attention or fear the doctor may not recognize the bite. You should never feel embarrassed about seeking medical attention, and don’t be shy about asking questions. Most doctors welcome such questions, which usually lead to further research on the poisonous bite and associated symptoms. It’s a way to let your doctor know you’re serious about this, and you expect concrete answers.

If you have been bitten, please take the time to submit a photograph of the bite so that others may benefit from the experience.