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First Aid for Spider Bites: Symptoms and Treatments

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

While many species of spiders are harmless to humans, some spiders can deliver a bite that can be dangerous or even deadly. Therefore, it is important to know how to properly care for a spider bite (SB) to avoid further complications. This article covers everything you need to know about first aid for spider bites, including the symptoms, treatment options, and when to seek medical assistance.




Common types of Spiders

The following are some of the most common types of spiders.

Black widow spiders

  •  Shiny black appearance with a red hourglass shape on the abdomen

  •  Found in dark, quiet, and undisturbed areas such as garages, closets, and woodpiles

  •  Female venom is fifteen times stronger than a rattlesnake's

  •  Symptoms from a bite include muscle aches, cramps, and spasms

Brown recluse spiders

  •  Light brown and tan colour with a darker brown violin shape on the head

  •  Found in dry, undisturbed areas such as attics, basements, and closets

  •  Venom can cause tissue damage, skin ulcers, and necrosis

  •  Symptoms of a bite include pain, redness, and blistering

Other venomous spiders

There are many other types of venomous spiders, such as the hobo spider, wolf spider, and cellar spider. While they are not as dangerous as black widows or brown recluse spiders, it's vital to be cautious around these spiders and seek medical attention if bitten.

Signs and symptoms of Spider Bites

A spider bite can cause localised or systemic symptoms, depending on the type of spider and the individual's reaction. Here are the signs and symptoms of SB.

1. Localised symptoms

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Pain or itching at the bite site

  • Blister or sore

2. Systemic symptoms

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Muscle cramps or spasms

  • Sweating

3. Symptoms of specific spider bites

  • Black Widow Spider Bite: muscle cramps, abdominal pain, hypertension, respiratory problems, sweating, and tremors

  • Brown Recluse Spider Bite: skin necrosis, fever, chills, sweating, nausea, vomiting

What happens if you do not seek medical attention for severe spider bites

If left untreated, severe SB can lead to the following issues.

  • Necrosis (death of skin tissue): This can lead to the formation of a blackened scab, which eventually falls off, leaving a deep wound that takes months to heal.

  • Cellulitis (infection of skin tissue): It can occur when bacteria enter the wound caused by the SB. The affected area becomes red, swollen, and painful, and the patient may experience a fever and chills.

  • Anaphylaxis (allergic reaction): Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur in response to spider venom. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, tongue, or throat, hives, and a rapid or weak pulse. It requires immediate medical attention.

  • Septicemia (blood poisoning): Septicemia, also known as blood poisoning, can occur when spider venom enters the bloodstream. It can cause fever, chills, rapid breathing, low blood pressure, and organ failure. Without prompt medical treatment, septicemia can be fatal.

Quick action: First Aid for Spider Bites

Here’s a step-by-step guide to First Aid for Spider Bites.

  • Initial steps: The first step is to wash the affected area with soap and water. Then, you should immobilise the affected limb or body part to prevent the spread of venom.

  • Cold compress: Applying a cold compress to the bite site can help reduce swelling and pain.

  • Elevation: Elevating the affected limb can help slow the spread of venom.

  • Administering OTC pain relief medication: Over-the-counter pain relief medication  can help relieve pain and reduce swelling.

  • Seeking medical attention: If you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or anaphylaxis, seek immediate medical attention. 

  • First aid for specific spider bites: The treatment for SB can vary depending on the type of spider that bit you. 

Treatment for Spider Bites

Treatment options may include the following.

  • Antivenom: This is a specific treatment that is used to counteract the effects of spider venom. Antivenom is administered through an IV, and it is usually reserved for more severe cases.

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics may be prescribed if there is an infection present. SB can introduce bacteria into the wound, which can then cause an infection.

  • Wound care: Wound care is an essential part of SB treatment. The wound needs to be cleaned and treated to prevent an infection from developing. This may involve cleaning the wound with soap and water, applying an antibiotic ointment, and covering it with a bandage.

How to prevent Spider Bites

Following are the tips for avoiding SB.

  • Keep your home clean and free of insects, which are a spider's prey.

  • Wear long sleeves and pants when you're outside, especially in areas with tall grass or piles of leaves.

  • Shake out clothing and shoes before putting them on, especially if they've been stored in a basement or garage.

  • Use insect repellents to keep spiders away.

  • Keep your windows and doors screened to keep spiders out.

  • If you find a spider inside your home, trap it with glass and paper and release it outside.

  • If you live in an area where certain spider species are common, learn what they look like and where they live so you can avoid them. Be aware of your surroundings and check for spiders before sitting or reaching into dark spaces.

  • If you are camping, shake out your bedding and inspect your tent regularly for spiders.

  • If you do get bitten, clean the bite with soap and water and apply a cold compress.

Common myths or misconceptions about Spider Bites and first aid

Here is a rundown of some common misconceptions.

  • All SB are dangerous.

  • You should try to suck the venom out of a spider bite wound.

  • Cutting open the bite wound is an effective way to remove the venom.

  • SBs are always visible on the skin.

  • All SBs require medical attention.

  • You can always feel a SB when it happens.

  • You should apply an electric shock to a SB wound.

  • Using essential oils or vinegar will cure a SB.

  • You should try to capture the spider that bit you for identification.

Frequently asked questions

Here is a list of common questions and their answers related to first aid for spider bites.


How long does it take for spider bite symptoms to appear?

Symptoms of SB can appear immediately or up to several hours after the bite.

When should I worry about the spider bite?

If you've been bitten by a spider, it's important to know when to seek medical attention. Here are a few signs that the bite may be serious.

  •  The bite is getting larger or more painful

  •  You are experiencing numbness or tingling

  •  You have difficulty breathing or swallowing

If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Can spider bites be fatal?

In rare cases, SB can be fatal, especially if left untreated or if the person has an allergic reaction to the venom.

What should I do if I think I've been bitten by a spider?

If you suspect you've been bitten by a spider, clean the bite area with soap and water, apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce swelling, and seek medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.

What are the long-term effects of spider bites?

The long-term effects of SB can vary depending on the type of spider and the severity of the bite. Some common long-term effects include scarring, numbness or tingling, chronic pain, muscle weakness, and vision problems.

What types of spiders are venomous?

Some common venomous spiders include black widows, brown recluses, hobo spiders, and wolf spiders.

What treatments are available for severe spider bites?

Here are some treatments that may be available: anti-venom medication, pain relief medication, antibiotics to prevent infection, ice packs to reduce swelling, elevating the affected limb, and surgery in severe cases.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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