All spiders can bite. But some don’t have fangs long enough to puncture the human skin. So you may run across spiders who feel threatened enough to take a bite, but they rarely do much damage.
In the United States, there are only a couple of spiders that have strong enough venom to cause symptoms. And the symptoms may look like any other type of insect bite. How can you tell the difference?
If you think you have a spider bite, keep reading. Find out what to look for and how to treat it.
What to Look For
You woke up with a bite on your body. You’re fairly sure it wasn’t a mosquito. So it must be a spider bite, right?
But what does a spider bite look like?
Unfortunately, unless you see a spider take a bite out of you, it’s generally hard to tell whether what you have is a mosquito or spider bite. Why? They look like any other type of insect bite.
Sometimes, though, the symptoms may be a little different than a mosquito bite. If you have the following symptoms, what you see may be a spider bite:
- Red spot or bump on the skin
- More painful than itchy
- Central puncture area
If the spider is harmless, you probably won’t have symptoms more serious than the ones listed. And contrary to popular belief, wolf spiders, tarantulas, and hobo spiders are not poisonous. Their bites may still cause uncomfortable symptoms such as those listed above. But they rarely bite and in most cases, the bites heal on their own without treatment.
However, if you were bitten by one of the two venomous spiders that reside in the US, you may experience additional symptoms that are typically not connected to insect bites.
Watch for the symptoms listed below:
There are three main symptoms to watch for that deviate from regular spider bites. The first one is pain around the bite mark. Pain from a black widow bite normally starts within an hour of the bite. But it can radiate beyond the bite and spread to your chest, back, and abdomen.
You may also experience abdominal cramping. This goes beyond a simple tummy ache or eating questionable food. Cramping from a bite from this spider may be so severe that you may mistake it for something serious like a ruptured appendix.
In addition, bites from a black widow may make you sweat a lot. This is a reaction to the venom in your system, but it may be easily dismissed for something else. Especially if the other symptoms aren’t that severe.
These spiders are another venomous type that you may encounter in the United States. The pain from this type of spider bite may increase after the first 8 hours of the bite. Additionally, you may experience body aches, chills, and a fever.
In some cases, people see the center of the bite darken to a purple or dark blue. Eventually, it turns into a deep open sore. As the skin around the bite dies, you may notice the sore getting larger.
Don’t panic, though. The ulcer typically stops growing after approximately 10 days after the bite. However, you may not see the area fully healed for a few months after the initial bite.
When Should You Seek Medical Attention
Most spider bites don’t require a doctor’s office visit, and they go away on their own. But if you experience the following, it’s a good idea to seek prompt medical attention:
- Abdominal cramping, severe pain, or growing ulcer around the bite area
- Unsure if the bite is from a poisonous spider
- The bitten person has problems breathing
Spiders live everywhere, but there are a few poisonous spider habitats that you should approach with caution.
For example, while black widow spiders can be found throughout the US, you may see more of them in the southwestern states. They have a preference for the following places:
- Gardening equipment or unused pots
On the other hand, brown recluse spiders can live indoors as well as outdoors. They are more common in limited areas of the South and throughout the southern Midwest. These spiders get their name because they like to hide in areas where they are less likely to be bothered.
Indoors, you may find them in the clutter of attics or basements. They also like to live behind dressers and bookshelves, but you rarely find them in used cupboards. Occasionally, you may find them outdoors in quiet, dark spots like in tree stumps or under rocks.
Spider Bite Treatment
If you have a regular spider bite, there are a few things you can do to make the healing process easier. First, wash the bite area with soap and water. If there’s swelling in the area, you can use a cool compress directly on the spider bite.
Furthermore, use over-the-counter medications for any pain relief as needed. If the itchiness is bothering you, you can also try a topical steroid cream. Spider bites usually resolve on its own, so you normally won’t need additional medical attention.
The only complications you may need to watch for is if you’re allergic to spider bites or if the bite gets infected. Both situations may require a doctor’s visit even if it’s just a regular spider bite.
What does a spider bite look like? Unless you are bitten by a poisonous spider, these bites look like any other insect bite. That may not be good news to you, but they are easy to take care of.
If you think you have a spider bite, and it wasn’t poisonous, simple treatments may work wonders. Use them as necessary to take care of pain and itchiness. But try to avoid scratching or picking at it because it may get infected.
Lastly, spider bites are uncomfortable but relatively harmless. So unless you suspect your bite came from a venomous spider, let your body do the work and leave it alone.