For those of you on my personal facebook page, you got to hear the story about Zach this month and his huge spider....but for those you not on the page......My oldest son, Zach had just got home from work at 3am and heard me up and about in the house. When he came out of his room to see what I was doing, there was a huge spider on his bedroom door knob...he screamed. Too his defense it was the size of a half dollar......HUGE.....but I still lectured him about making so much noise in the middle of the night (hoping he hadn't got his little brother up). The next day while shopping with my youngest for a Halloween costume, I was telling him the story about the spider on his brother's door. Gabor decided we should decorate Zach's door with a spider web and spider....
Now all joking aside, Spiders can be a real concern. I am talking from my own personal experience, growing up I was never scared of spiders. It wasn't until the day, a ended up with a spider bite from a Brown Recluse that I realized how serious a spider bite can be.
There are ONLY three types of potentially deadly spiders in the U.S.
The Brown Recluse
The Hobo Spider
And the Black Widow
The brown recluse is found in the southern two-thirds of the country. It is brown in color with a characteristic dark violin-shaped (or fiddle-shaped) marking on its head and has six equal-sized eyes (most spiders have eight eyes). Brown recluse spiders are usually found in areas with secluded, dry,
sheltered areas such as underneath structures, logs, or in piles of rocks or leaves. If a brown recluse spider wanders indoors, they may be found in dark closets, shoes, or attics, or hide in boxes, books, and other hard to reach places.
The hobo spider likes it out west. It is large and brown with a distinct pattern of yellow markings on its abdomen. One distinct difference is hobo spiders do not have dark bands on their legs. To catch their prey, hobo spiders build funnel webs in holes, cracks, and recesses. They may be found in areas with retaining walls, and in foundations, window wells, and stacks of firewood and bricks. Indoors, they can nest between boxes or other storage items, on window sills, under baseboard heaters or radiators, behind furniture, and in closets. Hobo spiders do not climb like most spiders but are fast runners.
The black widow has been found in every state except Alaska, and are identified by the pattern of red coloration on the underside of their abdomen. They are usually found in undisturbed areas such as woodpiles, under eaves, fences, and other areas where debris has accumulated, and outbuildings especially outside toilets. A bite from a black widow can be distinguished from other insect bites by the
two puncture marks it makes in the skin.
1. Evaluate the Pain of the bite
A black widow bite maybe painful, but its not always painful. You may also develop localized or generalized severe muscle cramps, abdominal pain, weakness, and or tremors. In severe cases, nausea, vomiting, faintness, dizziness, chest pain, and respiratory difficulties may follow.. "The black widow spider produces a protein venom that affects the victim's nervous system. Some people are slightly affected by the venom, but others may have a severe response." The severity of the reaction can depend on the age and physical condition of the person bitten. Children and the elderly are more seriously affected than young adults. Most experts believe that the bites of a Black Widow happen when a human comes into contact with the web of the black widow.
A brown recluse spider bite may feel like a bee sting or you may notice nothing. They hide in or under boxes, under your bed sheets, in your clothes (I believe mine fell out of a tree...as I was getting out of my car under a big old maple tree....at first I thought a bee had stung me). The first you know about it is the pain that develops several minutes to hours after the bite some up to 8 hours. Keep in mind that most bites cause little tissue destruction. "Initially the bite site is mildly red and upon close inspection may reveal fang marks. Within a few hours, the redness gives way to pallor with a red ring surrounding the area, or a "bull's-eye" appearance. The center area will then often blister, which over 12-48 hours can sink, turning bluish then black as this area of tissue dies." This is the eschar—the black, leathery, dead tissue. (Once inside my house, I lifted my shirt and a spider fell out....I had a bite that immediately turned into the size of a tennis ball in a matter of minutes.) And with the Brown Recluse, most experts believe the brown recluse spider cannot bite humans without some form of counter pressure, for example, through unintentional contact that traps the spider against the skin. (In my case the spider fell into my shirt.)
A hobo spider’s bite feels similar to a brown recluse’s, and the pain also occurs minutes to hours after the bite. These spiders are much more likely to attack if provoked or threatened. "About 50% of Hobo spider bites are "dry", meaning that no venom is injected and nothing happens to the victim. Typically
when the venom is injected, the victim will experience an immediate redness, which develops around the bite then may begin to disappear within a few hours. The most commonly reported symptom is severe headache. Other symptoms can include nausea, weakness, fatigue, temporary memory loss, and vision
2. Look at the Skin Damage
That’s the key to the brown recluse spider bite. You may not know when it bit you, but the bite area becomes red, blistered, or black. ( My bite, I watched as the blister increased in size and then popped ...I was amazed and scared at how deep the necrosis tissue went into the area.) " The area starts out small, and the redness spreads. A black spot of dead tissue develops in the middle of the redness. This dead tissue can be anything from small and superficial to deep and large—sometimes enough to warrant a skin graft when everything’s said and done. As the tissue dies, the area becomes very painful."
The hobo spider can cause skin damage, but less so than the brown recluse. Although the bite of the hobo spider usually is initially painless, the bite of the hobo spider can be serious. "While most hobo spider bites are minor, some can lead to an erupting lesion (a hole in the flesh caused by gangrenous tissue). The lesion can range from the size of a pea to a half dollar or larger. The dead tissue gradually falls off, exposing underlying tissues. The sunken, ulcerated hobo wound may take weeks or even months to heal leaving a ugly scar."
"The black widow spider bite causes a red spot that’s sometimes hard to see, but while you may not see the spot another symptom will be much more obvious. It can cause plenty of muscle aches and cramping throughout the body for one to three weeks. Within minutes to hours, a black widow bite can lead to severe chest and abdominal pain mimicking appendicitis or a heart attack. It can make your blood
pressure go up and may need to be treated. (Possible signs include an quickened pulse and a flushed face.) "
How to Treat a Bite From a Poisonous Spider:
1. Stay calm.
2. Identify the type of spider if it is possible to do so safely. Because it is nearly impossible to identify the cause simply by examining the wound and because necrotic wounds can result from a variety of agents in addition to spider bites, identifying the spider will help the medical professional better know which course of action to take.
3. Wash the bite area with soap, alcohol or other astringent.
4. Cover the area with a clean bandage
5. Apply a cloth dampened with cold water or filled with ice to the bite area to reduce swelling.
6. If pain is severe apply benzocaine or other topical pain reliever.
7. Elevate bite area if possible.
8. Do not attempt to remove venom.
9. Immediately seek professional medical attention.
Even though bites are rarely fatal, secondary infections can quickly turn so. The next step you need to do is make sure you do everything possible to prevent infection. (My friend's husband was in poor health to start with, so please don't wait to seek medical care if you are in poor health, infections can happen very quickly).
As the black layer of dead skin (eschar) sloughs off, treat the wound as you would any other, by keeping it clean and covered and applying antibiotic ointment or honey. Some large wounds take several weeks to heal. If it starts looking infected, you’ll need oral antibiotics. Treat the pain. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. If you think the spider was a black widow take a pain reliever like ibuprofen or aspirin for the muscle cramps.
The good news is that thanks to anti-venom, it’s extremely rare to die from a spider bite and those that do are typically caused by an allergic reaction or a severe secondary infection.
- Inspect or shake out any clothing, shoes, towels, or equipment before use.
- Minimize the empty spaces between stacked materials. Remove bed skirts and move beds away from walls.
- Dust and vacuum to remove spider webs and egg sacs.
- Eliminate garage, basement, attic and closet clutter in general just remove any clutter
- Remove and reduce debris, rubble, and tall grasses from around the house where spiders prefer to hide.
- Take care when handling cardboard boxes
- Keep your tetanus boosters up to date (every 10 years). Spider bites can become infected with tetanus spores.
- Control Spiders and prey insect populations in the home with pest control products such as dusts, sprays and traps, preferably with natural products that are not harmful to humans, pets or the environment.
I still have a scar about the size of a penny after 10+ years since my spider bite and I find myself a bit more nervous around spiders. Yes I know spiders do have a place in this world, keeping the insect population under control and whatever else they may do....but I could do without the poisonous ones. So as you are outdoors camping or hiking or just working in your yard or garage just remember you are in their domain......watch where you place your hands, arms and legs.... As for inside, I consider that my domain and I take the extra precautions with cleaning and sprays especially around my preps in the basement and in the closest and pantry.