Identifying and Treating Spider Bites – Insect and Animal Bites, Prevention, Treatment, and Management
Spiders may creep a lot of people out, but the vast majority aren’t dangerous. Some are venomous, and a very few are dangerous to humans. Most spider bites aren’t a cause of concern. A few spiders do have fangs long enough to pierce human skin and venom toxic enough to make humans sick. These include the black widow, tarantula, and brown recluse spiders. It’s extremely rare to die from a spider bite in North America but the venom can make you sick enough to warrant professional medical attention.
When you’re bitten by a spider, you’ll probably feel a sharp prick followed by a red mark where you felt the pain. If the spider is venomous, the bitten person may experience muscle stiffness and cramps in the bitten limb. These may gradually start to affect other areas of the body such as the abdomen and chest as the venom progresses through the body. As time passes, other symptoms manifest themselves:
• Aching and itching
• Heavy sweating
• Joint pain
• Severe abdominal pain
If someone in your party has suffered a bite and begins to show these symptoms, clean the bite, using soap and clean water. Then put cold packs on the bite; this will help ease the pain. If you don’t have over-the-counter medication to address the situation, look for tulip poplars and make a poultice from the leaves. You can also do this with plantain or black walnut leaves. If the bitten person is showing signs of poisoning, check her airway regularly and begin preparations for evacuation. Doctors will administer an antidote to the bite and will almost always do this to children and elderly people. Try to find the body of the spider that administered the bite, although this will probably be difficult. The body will help doctors determine what kind of spider bite they’re treating.
The black widow is one of the most widely known of poisonous spiders, although relatively few people have seen them in the wild. They’re found throughout the world, but humans are only affected by the bite of the female. Females have a red spot on their abdomens; it’s shaped rather like an hourglass. See Figure 14.1.
The brown recluse has a uniform body color (ranging from cream to dark brown). Its back has a purplish-shaped marking that looks a bit like a violin. This gives it its popular name: fiddle-back. While they are most common in the southern and central regions of the United States, they’re also found in northern areas. Similar to the brown recluse is the hobo spider, found in Europe and Asia as well as the United States and Canada. It has no markings, and even though its bite is poisonous, there is a lot of debate in the scientific community about how dangerous it really is. If nothing else, the bite is very painful. See Figure 14.2.
Figure 14.2. Brown recluse spider
When we think of big hairy spiders, we’re probably thinking of tarantulas. They have distinctively hairy bodies and legs and can range in length from about 4.5" to 11". Though their bite is painful, the venom is weaker than the venom a bee carries in its stinger, so it is unlikely to cause any problems unless you happen to be particularly allergic to them. You are more likely to have a complication because the bite itself hasn’t been properly cleaned than because of the venom. See Figure 14.3.