It’s officially summer time! If you are anything like me, this means you are getting outside a ton more, enjoying the beautiful weather. I love hiking and walking through the woods and enjoying the nice summer breeze and then…OUCH. Great, a spider bite.
Unfortunately, even if you use some kind of bug repellant, being outside more means that you (and your children) are more likely to get bitten! In Georgia the bites I worry most about are spider bites. Most spiders will not bite you intentionally, however, if the insect feels provoked or threatened it will bite. Spiders can be found anywhere, but they typically prefer hot, dry and dark areas such as shaded areas, woodpiles, rubble piles, under stones, in hollow stumps, sheds and garages. Indoors they can be found in undisturbed, cluttered areas in attics, basements and crawl spaces.
Typical symptoms of a harmless spider bite include redness and swelling at the site of the bite or sting. Minor delayed reactions can include itching and soreness. Although the majority of spiders native to Georgia are harmless, the Brown Recluse and Black Widow spiders are both extremely poisonous and their bites, if gone untreated, could be harmful or even fatal.
So when should you worry if you are bit by a spider?
A brown recluse can be identified by a dark brown violin shape on its back. A brown recluse bite initially will cause an area of reddened skin, just like any other bite. This will be followed by a blister that forms at the site and mild to intense pain about 2-8 hours after the bite. The venom from a brown recluse spider will cause a breakdown of tissue so you may develop an open sore or ulcer. This is typically mild but can range in severity.
To identify a black widow, look for a shiny black body with a red hourglass marking. Black widows are highly poisonous! Fortunately, they bite humans only when disturbed. Although considered the most venomous spider in North America, no one has died from a black widow bite in over ten years. Symptoms of a black widow bite will be much more immediate and typically more severe than a brown recluse. You might experience symptoms including pain at the bite site and then pain in your lower back and abdominal pain, nausea, sweating, tremors, labored breathing, restlessness, increased blood pressure and fever. Symptoms typically last for 8-12 hours and may continue for several days.
Preventing a Spider Bite
As with anything in health, prevention is key. There are certain essential oils that will deter spiders, including citrus, lavender, peppermint, citronella, cinnamon, tea tree and clove. You can use these diluted and applied topically, or spray in high risk areas. To prevent spider bites you should always wear gloves if working in an area where spiders are likely to live. Look for spider webs in your area, clear away clutter, and do not leave your children’s toys lying outside. Finally if a spider gets on you, brush it off. Do not crush it so that it is less likely to feel threatened and bite you.
What if I have been bitten, what do I do?
The first thing to do is if you get bitten by a spider, if you are able to, catch it so that it can be identified. This will help your health care provider determine their course of action. Next, clean the area with soap and water, elevate the area and apply a cold compress. Use creams such as calamine lotion or those containing colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to help soothe itchy skin. If you are concerned about the bite being from a black widow or brown recluse, or develop any of the symptoms discussed above, then seek medical attention immediately.