Spider Bite Pictures, Symptoms, and Treatments
If you think you may have been bitten by a spider, chances are you are not in serious danger. In most cases, your wound can be treated with basic first aid.1
In fact, if you didn't actually see the spider bite you, that bump, bite, rash, or redness you're experiencing could be due to a wide range of things—including other types of bug bites, pimples, cysts, skin infections, or MRSA.
Even a medical professional may not be certain what bit you unless you happened to catch the offending bug or spider, or unless the bite is producing distinctive symptoms.
Though most spiders are technically poisonous, in the vast majority of cases, their fangs are too small to cause humans much trouble. Typically, the only result of a spider bite is an itchy, red wound that goes away in about a week.
In North America, there are only two medically significant spiders. These are the brown recluse and the black widow.
Symptoms of Black Widow and Brown Recluse Bites
Brown spider with six eyes and violin shape on back.
A red ring forms around a white wound (looks like a target or bullet). A blister develops on the skin surrounded by red.
South Central and Southern U.S.
Plump black spider with red hourglass figure on underside of abdomen.
Two puncture marks, spreading muscle cramping and pain, sweating, muscle rigidity.
Warm Southern and Western States
What to Do
According to HealthLine, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms in the above table, you should:2
- Wash wound with soap and cold water
- Wrap ice in washcloth and apply to wound for 10 minutes, remove for 10 minutes, and repeat.
- Go to the ER or get a doctor or a medical professional's help.
If You Can, Take a Photo of What Bit You
When you go to the doctor, you will need to give as much information as possible about the bite, your symptoms, and what you saw bite you (if you saw it). If possible, and if you can do so safely, try to catch the spider or take a photo of it.
First Aid for Other Types of Spider Bites
The vast majority of bites of any kind (spider or not), can be treated with basic first aid:
- Wash the area with soap and water.
- Put a cold compress or ice pack on the area (protecting the skin from extreme cold) for about 10 minutes at a time to reduce swelling.
- If there is itching, you can apply calamine lotion (an anti-histamine), or a paste of baking soda and water several times a day.
- Elevate the part of your body that is affected by the bite.
- Over-the-counter pain killers, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), may be necessary to relieve the pain.
- Keep the wound clean and apply antibiotic ointment.
- Let any blisters pop on their own.
When to See a Doctor or Get Medical Help
See a doctor if you are experiencing:
- Abdominal cramps
- Swelling of face, lips, or throat
- Breathing problems
- If the wound gets continually worse or spreads after applying basic first aid
Could It Be a Skin Infection?
Did you see the spider or bug bite you? If not, it's possible that it could be a skin infection. Follow the first aid tips above, and if the problem seems to be getting worse after 2-3 days, you should get professional help.
What NOT to Do When Bitten
- Do not touch or massage the bitten area. If the spider was venomous, you should leave it alone in order to avoid spreading the venom.
- Do not engage in any physical activities after being bitten.
- Avoid heating pads. In the event that the spider emitted necrotic venom, the heat may facilitate the process of necrosis (dead skin tissue).
- Avoid steroid creams.
- Sucking out the venom is not recommended.
What a Doctor Will Do
There is no one treatment for all spider bites—it all depends upon the type of spider and severity of the bite. The doctor will begin by evaluating your symptoms. If there are signs of tachycardia, cardiac drugs may be given. Other medications may also be given to treat necrosis (dead skin tissue).
Your doctor may recommend a tetanus booster shot if you haven't had one in the last five years. You may need antibiotics if the bite becomes infected.
Serious cases may require medical evaluation. In some instances, patients may be closely monitored at the hospital.
In rare cases, surgery may be needed, especially if necrosis identified on the spider bite. Surgical evaluation is also necessary if the presenting symptoms are worsening.
More About Brown Recluse Spiders
If you have:
- A red ring that forms around a white wound that looks like a bullet or a target
- A blister that has developed on the skin
You may have been bitten by a brown recluse.3 It's possible you won't have felt anything when it bit.
Where They Live
Typically, these spiders live in South Central and Southern U.S. states (including Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska).
If you don't live in these areas, it's highly unlikely this is what bit you. These spiders also only attack if they are disturbed. They do not aggressively attack humans.
What They Look Like
These spiders are brown, slightly larger than a quarter, and have a distinctive marking on their back that looks like a violin, or fiddle. This can be easily mis-identified however. If you happen to see or catch the spider, the best way to identify it is by looking at its eyes. These spiders only have 6 eyes, instead of the usual 8.
What Happens When They Bite?
People will react differently to the venom. In 90 percent of cases, bites heal without medical attention and will not scar. You will see a small red mark that will heal soon.
For those who are more sensitive, a small blister may appear, the skin may become hard, and it may become blue-grey surrounded by red. It could turn into an open wound. Victims could also experience chills, fever, or headache.
If You've Been Bitten:
- Wash the area of the bite with soap and water
- Put a cold compress on for 10 minutes. Remove for 10 minutes, then repeat.
- After, go immediately to the emergency room. If possible, bring either the spider or a picture of it to help identify it.
More About Black Widow Spiders
If you have:
- Two puncture wounds on the skin that cause pain and burning
- Spreading cramping and muscle pain
- Muscle rigidity
- Chills, fever, nausea, or vomiting
- Severe belly, back, or chest pain
Then you may have been bitten by a black widow.
Where Do They Live?
Black widows are mostly found in warm Southern and Western states. They like to live in piles of leaves, woodpiles, or in the attic. Like the brown recluse, they only attack if they feel threatened.
What Do They Look Like?
Only female black widows are dangerous to humans. They are plump and black, roughly the size of a quarter, with a red hourglass shape on the underside of their bellies, so check the spider if you caught it or saw it.
If You've Been Bitten:
- Clean area with soap and cold water (do not massage the tissue to prevent venom spread)
- Remain calm
- Do not apply a tourniquet
- Wrap ice in towel and apply to the wound for 10 minutes, remove for 10 minutes, then repeat
- Get medical help immediately
These bites are rarely fatal. Only the very young, the elderly, or people with weakened immune systems are at risk of fatal reactions.4
Why Spiders Bite
While some spiders are aggressive, most spiders tend to hide and prefer dark and isolated places. Spiders often bite in self-defense, when they sense harm from another living creature. People are bitten because we may have harmed them unknowingly.
Most bites by spiders in the United States will only cause an itchy red spot that clears up in a few days. That's because most spider fangs, or chelicera, are too short to completely penetrate human skin. While some bites are almost painless, others can feel like a bee sting.
One of the main concerns about a spider bite is the potential effects of the venom. As mentioned, some dangerous species of spiders can inflict little to no pain upon biting, and so they, therefore, can go unnoticed. But some spider bites are dangerous. So identifying the type of spider and seeking treatment is important.
You can help prevent spider bites by shaking out boots, gloves, blankets, and other clothing before using them, especially if they've been in storage. Similarly, when entering storage areas, make a lot of noise to scare spiders away. If you have a spider problem, you can also seek professional help.5
Other Common Spiders That Bite
- Hobo spiders: These large brown spiders are common in the Pacific Northwestern U.S. Symptoms of their bites are similar to those of a brown recluse. Seek medical attention to hasten the healing process.
- Tarantulas: Common to the warm Southwestern U.S., the bite of these big, hairy spiders feels like a painful bee sting. Seek medical attention to monitor heart rate and breathing, as the bite can make breathing difficult.
- Wolf Spiders: Found in all areas of the U.S. these spiders actually stalk and can be aggressive. Their bite can tear the skin and cause pain, redness, and swelling. They have two eyes in front that are much bigger than their other 6.
More Dangerous Spiders
Here are some more dangerous spiders that are found world-wide. Bites from these kinds of spiders in North America are extremely rare.
- Redback spiders
- Brazilian wandering spiders
- Tree-dwelling funnel-web spiders
A bite from one of these spiders can produce intense pain and other symptoms such as chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain.
Other serious cases of manifestations are leg cramps, body aches, sweating, exhaustion, tachycardia, dizziness, and shortness of breath, confusion, and even unconsciousness. A visit to the emergency room is a must if the bite victim experiences any of these symptoms.
The world's most potentially dangerous spiders, when they bite people, are the Sydney funnel-web spiders and Brazilian wandering spider.
These spiders may be more dangerous than black widows because their fangs are longer and they can inject more venom deeper into the skin.
Spider Bite Pictures
Remember that children, the elderly, and those with depressed immune systems are the most likely to have severe reactions to spider bites of any kinds. If you or the person you care for falls into one of these groups, you should seek medical attention.6
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Spider Bites." May 14, 2016. MayoClinic. Accessed April 6, 2017.
- Story, Colleen M. (medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COI). "How to Identify and Treat Spider Bites." October 20, 2016. Healthline. Accessed April 6, 2017.
- Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD. "Brown Recluse Spiders: What to Know." January 3, 2017. WebMD. Accessed April 6, 2017.
- "Black Widow Spider Bite - Topic Overview." November 20, 2015. WebMD. Accessed April 6, 2017.
- Esposito, Lisa. "How to Detect and Treat Spider Bites." <http://health.usnews.com/wellness/articles/2016-07-08/how-to-detect-and-treat-spider-bites>. July 8, 2016. U.S. News & World Report. Accessed April 6, 2017.
- "Insect Bites and Stings and Spider Bites - Topic Overview." August 21, 2015. WebMD. Accessed April 6, 2017.