Typically, a spider bite looks like any other bug bite — a red, inflamed, sometimes itchy or painful bump on your skin — and may even go unnoticed. Harmless spider bites usually don't produce other symptoms.
Black widow spider bites
Signs and symptoms of a black widow spider bite may include:
- Pain. Typically beginning within an hour of being bitten, pain can spread from the bite site into your abdomen, back or chest.
- Cramping. Abdominal cramping or rigidity can be so severe that it's sometimes mistaken for appendicitis or a ruptured appendix.
- Sweating. Excessive sweating can occur around the bite mark or may involve the entire limb.
Brown recluse spider bite
The pain associated with a brown recluse spider bite typically increases during the first eight hours after the bite. The bite usually heals on its own in about a week. In a minority of cases, the skin at the center of the bite can become dusky red and then evolve into a deep open sore (ulcer) that enlarges as the surrounding skin dies. The ulcer usually stops growing within 10 days after the bite, but full healing can take months.
When to see a doctor
Seek prompt medical assistance if you believe you've been bitten by a spider and you're experiencing:
- Severe pain
- Abdominal cramping
- A growing ulcer at the bite site
Severe spider bite symptoms occur as a result of injected spider venom. The severity of symptoms depends on the type of spider, the amount of venom injected and how sensitive your body is to the venom.
Although dangerous spider bites are rare, your risk of being bitten increases if you live in the same areas that the spiders do and you happen to disturb their habitat. Both black widow and brown recluse spiders prefer warm climates and dark, dry places.
Black widow habitat
Black widow spiders can be found throughout the U.S. but more so in the Southwestern states. They prefer to live in:
- Unused pots and gardening equipment
Brown recluse habitat
Brown recluse spiders are found most commonly in the southern Midwest and in limited areas of the South. Recluses are so named because they like to hide away in undisturbed areas. They mostly prefer to live indoors, in places such as:
- The clutter of basements or attics
- Behind bookshelves and dressers
- In rarely used cupboards
Outside, they seek out dark, quiet spots, such as under rocks or in tree stumps.
Very rarely, a bite from a black widow or brown recluse spider may be deadly, particularly in children and in older people with serious health problems.
Spiders in general, including the black widow and brown recluse, bite only in defense, when being crushed between your skin and another object.
To prevent spider bites:
- Wear a long-sleeve shirt, hat, gloves and boots when handling stored boxes or firewood, and when cleaning out sheds, garages, basements, attics and crawl spaces.
- Inspect and shake out gardening gloves, boots and clothing that have been unused for a while.
- Use insect repellents, such as DEET or Picaridin, on clothing and footwear.
- Keep insects and spiders out of the house by installing tight-fitting screens on windows and doors, and caulking or sealing cracks or crevices where spiders can come in.
- Discard old boxes, clothing and other unwanted items from storage areas.
- Store items you want to keep off of the floor and away from walls.
- Remove piles of rocks or lumber from the area around your house.
- Avoid storing firewood against the house.
- Vacuum spiders and spider webs and dispose of them in a sealed bag outside to prevent re-entry into the house.