- Bite from a spider
- Bite symptoms include redness, pain, swelling
- Helpful if spider seen on the skin or in close proximity to the child
Types of Spider Bites
Black Widow Spider Bite
- A shiny, jet-black spider with long legs (total size 1 inch).
- A red (or orange) hourglass-shaped marking on its under-side.
- Causes immediate local mild pain, swelling and occasionally 2 fang marks.
- Severe muscle cramps (especially abdominal wall cramps) are present by 1 to 6 hours, and last 24 to 48 hours.
- Rarely causes death (EXCEPTION: bitten by several spiders or small child is bitten)
- Note: Many are dry bites because the fangs are small.
Brown Recluse Spider Bite
- A brown spider with long legs (total size 1/2 inch).
- A dark violin shaped marking on top of its head
- Causes local pain and delayed blister formation in 4 to 8 hours
- The center becomes bluish and depressed (crater-like) over 2 to 3 days
- Skin damage may require skin grafting in 10% of cases.
- Systemic symptoms such as fever, vomiting, muscle pain can occur (but no life-threatening symptoms).
- Since brown recluse spiders are hard to identify, bring the spider along in a jar.
Non-dangerous Spider Bites
- More than 50 spiders in the U.S. have venom and can cause local, nonserious reactions.
- The bites are painful and mildly swollen for 1 or 2 days (much like a bee sting).
- Many single, unexplained, tender bites that occur during the night are due to spiders.
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
- Boil suspected (i.e., painful red lump and NO spider bite), see RASH - LOCALIZED
- Not a spider bite, see INSECT BITES
First Aid Advice for Black Widow Spider Bites: Apply an ice cube or ice pack to the bite for 20 minutes to reduce the spread of the venom (no tourniquet).
First Aid Advice for Shock: Lie down with the feet elevated.
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- Passed out or too weak to stand
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Any black widow spider bite (see FIRST AID)
- Abdominal pain, chest tightness or other muscle cramps
- Bite pain is severe
- Bite looks infected (red streaking from the bite area, yellow drainage). (Note: infection doesn't start until at least 24-48 hours after the bite. Any redness in the first 24 hours is due to venom)
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Bite starts to look bad (e.g., skin damage, blister or purplish - not just swelling)
- Bite pain persists over 2 days
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
- Non-serious spider bite and you don't think your child needs to be seen
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR NON-DANGEROUS SPIDER BITES
- Cleansing: Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water.
- Meat Tenderizer: Rub the bite area with a cotton ball soaked in a meat tenderizer solution for 20 minutes (EXCEPTION: avoid if near the eye). Do this once. If not available, apply an ice cube in a wet washcloth for 20 minutes.
- Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as needed for pain.
- Expected Course: Some swelling and pain for 1 to 2 days. It shouldn't be any worse than a bee sting.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Severe bite pain persists over 2 hours after pain medicine
- Abdominal pains or muscle spasms occur
- Local pain lasts over 2 days (48 hours)
- Bite begins to look infected
- Your child becomes worse
Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011
Last Revised: 8/12/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.