The brown recluse spider is one of a few poisonous kinds of spiders in the United States. It is part of the arachnid family, which includes not just spiders, but ticks, mites, and scorpions, too. It has long, skinny legs and is about ½ to 1 inch long overall. Its entire body is brown, except for a dark mark in the shape of a violin on its head.
Brown recluse spiders are most commonly found in midwestern and southern states of the United States, and they usually hang out in dark places. When they are outside, they like to spend time in piles of rocks, wood, or leaves.
If they come inside, brown recluse spiders will go to dark closets, attics, or basements. They aren't aggressive, and they bite only when disturbed.
A person who gets bitten by a brown recluse spider may not notice anything at first or only feel a little sting at first. After about 4 to 8 hours, the sting will start to hurt a little more. It might look like a bruise or might form a blister surrounded by a bluish-purple area that turns black or brown and becomes crusty after a few days.
If you ever think that you've been bitten by a brown recluse spider, tell an adult immediately. Brown recluse spider bites rarely kill people, but it's important to get medical attention as soon as you can because they can make you pretty sick. With an adult's help, wash the bite well with soap and water. You can also apply ice to the area, elevate it, and keep it still.
If it's possible, have an adult catch and bring the spider to the doctor's office with you — this is important because it can sometimes be hard to diagnose a spider bite correctly. The spider can be killed first before you bring it with you; just be sure not to squish it so much that no one can tell what it is.
Doctors treat people who have been bitten by a brown recluse spider with different types of medications like antibiotics, antihistamines, or pain medicines. Rarely, a skin graft might be needed if the skin is really damaged at the area of the bite. (A skin graft is when a small amount of skin is removed from some part of the body and put in a place where skin is damaged to create new skin.)
The best way to avoid getting bitten by brown recluse spiders is to be careful in areas where they like to spend time. Don't play around in rock piles or woodpiles. If you are working outside in the yard in big piles of logs or leaves, wear gloves.
Be sure to shake out blankets and clothing that have been stored in the attic or the basement, or if they have been in a closet but not used for a long time.
If you keep your shoes in a mudroom or garage, shake them out before putting them on.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: April 2013
|BrainPop This is a great site for kids with informational movies about science, anatomy, weather, and more.|
|National Park Service This site contains information on America's national parks and the many ways you can enjoy the great outdoors.|
|What to Do When You're Bugged by Bugs Ugh. Bugs. They're cool, but they also can ruin your day by stinging or biting you. Find out how to handle them in this article.|
|Camping and Woods Safety Ah, the great outdoors! Find out how to stay safe while you're exploring the woods.|
|Hey! A Fire Ant Stung Me! Fire ants think they're hot stuff. Learn how to handle them in this article for kids.|
|Hey! A Tarantula Bit Me! A tarantula is a black, hairy spider that is about two to three inches long. Learn all about spiders and tarantulas in this fun article for kids.|
|Hey! A Black Widow Spider Bit Me! The black widow spider is one of six poisonous kinds of spiders in the United States. Learn more about them!|
|Hey! A Scorpion Stung Me! Scorpions are about three inches long (about the length of a crayon), with eight legs and a small pair of claws that look like crabs' claws. Read all about them.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.