Brown Recluse Spider Bite: Symptoms, Treatment and Avoidance Tips

Brown Recluse Spider Bite: Symptoms, Treatment and Avoidance Tips

Brown Recluse spiders are widespread in the Western, Mid-western and Southern United States, particularly in Nebraska, Lowa, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Missouri. These regions are usually considered as its native range and it has not established itself in California. Brown recluse spiders are extremely versatile and might be dynamic in temperatures ranging from 45 to 110 degrees F.

brown-recluse-spider

The brown recluse spider is one of the two most venomous spiders (the other being the Black Widow spider) found in North America. Its venom has been documented as medically significant.

The brown recluse spiders usually range in color from light to medium brown, from yellowish-tan to dark brown or blackish grey. The adult brown recluses differ in color from dull yellow to orangey or dark brown while the younger specimens are light in color as compared to adults. They do not have coloration patterns on the legs and abdomen. The abdomen of the brown recluse has no lines or spots and is covered with very short fine hairs that look like a soft fur. They have long thin legs without spines and leg joints are slightly lighter in color.

The brown recluse spiders usually range in color from light to medium brown, from yellowish-tan to dark brown or blackish grey. The adult brown recluses differ in color from dull yellow to orangey or dark brown while the younger specimens are light in color as compared to adults. They do not have coloration patterns on the legs and abdomen. The abdomen of the brown recluse has no lines or spots and is covered with very short fine hairs that look like a soft fur. They have long thin legs without spines and leg joints are slightly lighter in color.

The brown recluse usually measures approximately 6 to 20 millimeters and sometimes may grow larger. These spiders have distinctive darker brown violin pattern on the dorsal side of their cephalothorax directed towards the abdomen. There is no marking on their tail end. Due to this violin-shaped marking, brown recluses are also known as violin spiders or fiddle-back spiders. Some other spiders like cellar spiders and pirate spiders may also have violin pattern but the brown recluse spiders can be distinguished due to their eyes. They have six eyes, unlike most spiders, arranged in pairs with one median pair and two lateral pairs.

Life-cycle

Each female brown recluse spider lays several egg sacs from May to August. Each sac contains about 50-300 eggs. The eggs usually hatch in about 24-36 days. A spiderling takes approximately one year to grow to adulthood. A brown recluse can survive up to two years without food or water.

Habitat

Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive and do not bite people unless they feel threatened, provoked or disturbed by being squeezed. The brown recluse spiders have reclusive and isolated behavior so they usually build their webs in hidden and dry places and shelter. They usually prefer to live in warm climates. They dwell in dark and cozy areas, such as cluttered basements or closets, cellars, barns, homes, porches, garages, closets, woodpiles, piles of rocks, under furniture or beds, cardboard boxes, leaves, or rocks. Brown recluse spiders usually build disorganized or asymmetrical webs. They have also been encountered in old shoes, books, infrequently used clothes or bed sheets, behind pictures or mirrors, in toilets, inside dressers, in corners, cracks, and crevices, or under carpets and clothes left lying on the floor for a long time. They hide during the daytime and leave their webs at night in search of prey as they do not use webs for hunting. They hunt for soft-bodied insects like cockroaches, firebrats, crickets, etc.

Symptoms of a Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Initially, the bite does not show any intense symptoms. You may feel pain, itching or burning and the affected area may also become red. The symptoms may develop with the passage of time as the venom spreads throughout the body. Children, the elderly and the individuals with the weak immune system may show severe symptoms. The pain becomes intense within 2 to 8 hours. Within 12 to 36 hours, the venom may cause the following symptoms:
• Fever
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Chills
• Sweating
• Rashes
• Muscles and joint pain
• Restlessness/ discomfort
• Inflammation in the affected area
• Severe itching on the affected area
• The bitten area or wound becomes enlarge up to 10 inches
The venom of the brown recluse spider has an enzyme that damages cell membranes in the wounded area. The damaged tissues become gangrenous and slough away. The underlying tissues are exposed and may cause an ulcerous sore or a dark blister. The sore heals very slowly and often leaves a scar. Most bites heal on their own without leaving scars. If you believe that a brown recluse has bitten you, get medical attention.

What to do if the brown recluse bites you?

If you think that a brown recluse spider has bitten you, immediately go to the emergency room or call your doctor. Most of the bites are not serious, become red and fade away. While in some cases, these venomous bites can produce severe necrosis, dermonecrotic lesions, cutaneous or viscerocutaneous symptoms. They can rarely cause hemolysis, organ damage, disseminated intravascular coagulation, thrombocytopenia, kidney failures, seizures and serious infections. These symptoms can lead to coma and may be life-threatening. A very quick treatment from a medical professional is needed especially in the case of children, the elderly or people with the weak immune system; who may show more severe symptoms. Before going to the emergency room, following steps can be taken to reduce or prevent the spread of poison of the most venomous brown spiders:
• Wash the bitten area with soap and water instantly.
• Raise the affected area and tightly tie with a piece of cloth or bandage around it.
• Then apply an ice pack to the bitten area to control the inflammation.
• Try to capture the spider in a clear tight container and bring it to the doctor so that the spider can be identified.

Treatment of a brown recluse spider bite

There is not any effective medicine to treat the venom for the brown recluse spider. However, there are certain other medicines to counteract the symptoms of the bite. If the affected area is located near a joint, such as knee or elbow, the doctor will immobilize the affected limb. The treatment may include:
• Pain killers
• muscle relaxers
• NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen)
• corticosteroids (drugs that relieve inflammation)
• medicine for wound care
• tetanus prophylaxis
• weak or moderate strength opioid (e.g. codeine or tramadol, respectively) depending on pain scores
• an anti-inflammatory agent (e.g. naproxen, cortisone)
• an antispasmodic (e.g. cyclobenzaprine, diazepam)

Antibiotic is recommended if the wound becomes infected, but the wound infection is rare.
Many other therapies may also be recommended depending on the severity and symptoms of the wound such as dapsone, antibiotics, hyperbaric oxygen, nitroglycerin, antihistamines (e.g., cyproheptadine), dextran, glucocorticoids, vasodilators, heparin, electric shock, curettage, surgical excision, and antivenom. It has been declared from many studies that some of the surgical interventions are not much effective and may worsen outcome. Excision delays the healing process cause abscesses and lead to scarring,
Proper medical attention is necessary but the bite wound, blisters or ulcerous sores take weeks to heal completely.

How to avoid brown recluse spider bite – avoidance tips

It is important to understand the isolated nature of brown recluses so that we can eliminate their favorable conditions and places. It is impossible to completely get rid of brown recluses especially if you live in an area where they are common. However, you can take some precautions to reduce the chances of being bitten by these recluses:
• Keep your stores, yards, porches and basements clean and avoid piling woods, debris, trach and rubbish in the house so that the spiders cannot find places to reside.
• Frequently vacuum and dust around corners, windows, curtains, behind pictures and under furniture and appliances to eliminate dead insects and spiders, spider webs, and egg sacs.
• Sticky traps, repellents and sprays can also help lower the number of brown recluses for a period of time.
• Do not leave your clothes on the ground for long. If you do so, shake them out well when putting them on.
• It is advised to shake out your shoes before wearing them as well.
• Always wear gloves while moving piles of woods, rocks or things out of storage.
• Avoid going barefoot.
• Keep children out of cluttered dark places.
• Try to seal all the openings, cracks and crevices in and around your home.
• Store your shoes and clothing items tightly packed in plastic bags.
• Let the sun into your home.
• Move the beds away from the walls and curtains, and do not let bedspreads touch the floor so that the spiders cannot crawl onto your bed.
• Remove all trash or debris stored under the bed.
• Always inspect your bed before getting into bed.

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