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First Aid: Spider Bites

First Aid

Because most spider bites don't go all the way through skin, they usually cause only mild reactions. However, black widow and brown recluse spider bites can cause serious reactions and need immediate care. Allergic reactions to spider bites can happen but are rare.

Signs and Symptoms

Of a brown recluse spider bite:

  • swelling or redness around the bite
  • pain around the bite within 2 to 8 hours
  • joint stiffness or pain
  • nausea, vomiting
  • body rash
  • fever, chills, and body aches
  • tiredness

Of a black widow spider bite:

  • painful muscle cramps within 8 hours
  • no bite on the skin (or only a small bite)
  • belly pain and stiffness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • breathing trouble

Of an allergic reaction:

  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • difficulty swallowing or speaking
  • chest tightness, wheezing, or trouble breathing

What to Do

If your child has been bitten by a spider:

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Put an ice pack or a cool wet cloth on the bite area to relieve pain and swelling.

Get Medical Care Right Away if:

  • Your child has any signs of an allergic reaction.
  • Your child develops any kind of rash after a bite.
  • Your child has severe pain or cramping.
  • The area begins to look infected (increasing redness, pain, swelling, warmth, or pus).
  • You think your child was bitten by a brown recluse spider or black widow spider.

Think Prevention!

  • Make sure garages, attics, and woodpiles are free of spider webs.
  • Make sure kids wear long sleeves and pants when playing around garages, attics, and woodpiles, etc.
  • Firewood should be kept outside the house to avoid bringing spiders inside.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date Reviewed: 09-07-2018

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