In spite of their harmful bites, many people may be surprised to learn that brown recluse spiders are not aggressive. They only bite when disturbed or provoked in some way, which, of course, may be purely accidental. The bite of both the male and female brown recluse is dangerous, whereas the bite of the black widow is only harmful if inflicted by the female.
A person’s reaction to a brown recluse bite depends on his/her sensitivity to it as well as the amount of venom injected. Fatalities are rare, but bites are more dangerous to the elderly, small children, and those in poor physical health.
A bite may feel like a small pin-prick or may not be felt at all. A person may experience an immediate stinging sensation and intense pain or may have no reaction for up to 8 hours following a bite. Symptoms may include fever, itching, nausea or vomiting, joint pain, restlessness or trouble sleeping. A victim will usually notice a small, white blister where the bite occurred. That area becomes red and swollen and the tissue can become hard to the touch. The victim may also notice a distinctive bull’s eye type pattern containing concentric red, white, and blue circles.
If a victim has a severe reaction to the venom, it can actually deaden the tissue at the bite location, leaving an open wound. This is known as necrosis. Over a period of approximately ten days to two weeks following a bite, the victim’s skin will begin to come off and leave this type of open ulcer. This can vary in size from one to several inches, and can even expose underlying tissue or bone. It takes many weeks for this kind of wound to heal, and scar tissue is likely to result from it. In extreme situations, a person may need reconstructive surgery to restore that area.
If you or someone else suspects they have been bitten by a brown recluse, it is extremely important to seek medical care right away. It is very helpful to take the spider along, if possible, for proper identification and treatment.
It is important to note that not all brown recluse bites result in the type of ulcer formation described above. In fact, many bites result in nothing more than a reddened area, and most heal without serious scarring. In addition, there are other conditions, diseases and insect bites that can result in similar types of wounds as those from a brown recluse bite.
After a bite, it is important to wash the area with mild soap and cool water. Avoid putting any type of heat on the wound, as this can speed up tissue damage. To help reduce pain and swelling, apply an ice pack to the bite area. The victim may also wish to take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen.
The victim should sit or lie still and avoid any strenuous activity, which can actually cause the venom to spread through the skin. He or she should not elevate the bite area above heart level. It is also important not to apply a steroid cream, such as cortisone, to the bite area.
A doctor will examine the wound, gather information, and determine the best course of treatment. Although an anti-venom has been developed for brown recluse bites, it may not be widely available. If a person is experiencing symptoms similar to those of a brown recluse bite, but is unsure if that is the actual cause, it is still important to seek medical care.
The venom from brown recluse spider bites can cause the death or decay of a victim’s tissue. This is known as necrosis. After suffering a bite, a person can develop open ulcers that sometimes become quite large. However, it is important to note that not all brown recluse bites result in the formation of these sores.
In fact, sometimes people mistakenly think that a necrotic wound on their skin is the result a brown recluse bite, but they may not actually have been in contact with a brown recluse. These types of lesions are referred to as brown recluse spider cancer.
However, there are other causes of these types of wounds, including certain diseases and the bites of other arthropods or insects. This level of skin irritation can develop from such things as Lyme disease, a staph infection, cancer, or flesh-eating bacteria. Likewise, the bite or sting from a scorpion, bee, or ant can also result in flesh wounds.
If you or someone else observes these kinds of wounds or experiences symptoms similar to those resulting from a brown recluse bite (such as nausea, muscle pain, fever, itching, or convulsions), seek medical attention right away. If possible, take the spider along for identification purposes. Even if these symptoms seem to occur due to something other than a brown recluse bite, it is important to seek immediate medical care. A doctor will make a diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment.