All of the 3,000 species of spiders found in the United States are poisonous; however, their fangs are either too short or too fragile to break through human skin, or their venom is too weak to cause damage. The bites of most spiders cause only minor, local reactions, although a deadly reaction can occur.
In the United States, the two spiders that can cause serious problems are the black widow and the brown recluse spiders (sometimes called the violin spider). Both of these spiders are found in warm climates. If it is possible to kill or capture the spider without further harm to yourself or your child, it is important to do so. Place the spider in a glass jar or plastic container so it can be positively identified.
The brown recluse spider, or violin spider, is about 1 inch long and has a violin shaped mark on its upper back. It is often found in warm, dry climates and prefers to stay in undisturbed areas such as basements, closets, and attics. It is not an aggressive spider, but will attack if trapped or held against the skin. No deaths have been reported in the U.S. from a brown recluse bite.
Venom from the brown recluse spider usually causes local tissue damage. The following are the most common symptoms of a bite from a brown recluse spider bite:
Burning, pain, itching, or redness at the site, which is usually delayed and may develop within several hours or days of the bite
A deep blue or purple area around the bite, surrounded by a whitish ring and large red outer ring similar to a "bulls eye"
An ulcer or blister that turns black
Headache, body aches
Nausea or vomiting
These symptoms may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.
Specific treatment for a brown recluse spider bite will be determined by your child's health care provider. Treatment may include:
Remain calm and reassure your child that you can help.
Wash the area well with soap and water.
Apply a cold or ice pack wrapped in a cloth, or a cold, wet washcloth to the site.
To protect against infection, particularly in children, apply an antibiotic lotion or cream.
Give acetaminophen for pain.
Elevate the site if the bite occurred on an arm or leg (to help prevent swelling).
Seek immediate emergency care for further treatment. Depending on the severity of the bite, surgical treatment of the wound may be required. No medications have been proven to help. Hospitalization may be needed.
Prompt treatment is essential to avoid more serious complications, especially in children.
A black widow spider is a small, shiny black button-shaped spider with a red hourglass mark on its abdomen and that prefers warm climates. Widow spider bites release a toxin that can cause damage to the nervous system, thus, emergency medical treatment is necessary.
The following are the most common symptoms of a black widow spider bite:
Immediate pain, burning, swelling, and redness at the site (double fang marks may be seen)
Cramping pain and muscle rigidity in the stomach, chest, shoulders, and back
Rash and itching
Restlessness and anxiety
Salivation, tearing of the eyes
Weakness, tremors, or paralysis, especially in the legs
Specific treatment for a black widow spider bite will be determined by your child's health care provider. Treatment may include:
Seek immediate emergency care for further treatment. Depending on the severity of the bite, treatment may include muscle relaxants, pain relievers and other medications, and supportive care. Antivenin may be considered, although it is usually not required. Hospitalization may be needed.