Brown Recluse Spiders
Brown Recluse Spiders
Brown Recluse Bite Information
By Sandra Ketcham, eHow Contributor
Brown recluse spiders, or Loxosceles reclusa, are venomous spiders located in the southern and central-southern United States. Brown recluse bites are potentially fatal, although most cause only minor symptoms. Proper identification of the spider and prompt medical treatment minimize the risk of developing serious complications from a brown recluse bite.
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- Identification of brown recluse spiders is crucial to obtaining an accurate diagnosis of a brown recluse bite. Adult spiders are dark brown to yellowish tan, have soft bodies, and measure between one-quarter and one-half inches long. Brown recluse legs are thin and delicate, are usually dark brown in color, and are covered with dark hairs. Adult spiders, including leg span, are approximately the size of a half-dollar. Brown recluse spiders have two distinguishing features: three pairs of eyes on the forepart of the head and a dark violin-shaped mark extending from the eyes to the abdomen. They may be found in small, irregularly shaped webs, or roaming.
- Common Bite Reactions
- Some people experience no effects from a brown recluse bite. In others, symptoms may not develop for several hours. Most bite reactions include the development of a small blister at the bite location that is surrounded by a large swollen area. Within 24 to 36 hours, fever, chills, restlessness, nausea, joint pain and weakness occur. The bite area enlarges, inflammation increases, and the tissue becomes hard and hot. This may be the extent of the bite reaction for some people, and symptoms will gradually disappear over the course of days or weeks. According to the University of California, Riverside, 90 percent of brown recluse bites are medically insignificant.
- Severe Bite Reactions
- In severe bite reactions, a hole in the flesh develops at the bite location. This open wound may range in size from one-quarter of an inch to several inches. The ulcerated wound may take up to two months to heal, and scarring may be significant. In some cases, brown recluse spider bites may cause significant injury, tissue loss and necrosis. Rarely, bites may lead to hemolysis, renal failure, coagulopathy or death. The severity of the reaction depends on several factors, including the amount of injected venom, the person’s sensitivity to brown recluse venom, and the overall health of the victim.
- Following a bite, the offending spider should be captured for positive identification. Brown recluse bites are a medical emergency, and victims must obtain medical assistance even in the absence of symptoms. Prompt application of antiseptic solution can help prevent infection, and ice packs may help alleviate swelling and pain. Antihistamine medications are useful at relieving itching. High doses of cortisone hormones are used to combat complications such as hemolysis. If infection occurs, high-dose antibiotics, either oral or intravenous, may be prescribed. When tissue damage is extensive, treatment involves surgery to remove the necrotic tissue. There is no effective antivenom for brown recluse bites.
- Prevention of brown recluse bites involves avoiding contact with the spiders as much as possible. Brown recluse spiders are most active at night when they come out to hunt for food. During the day, the spiders tend to hide in dark, quiet places, such as bathrooms, closets, cellars, storage sheds, garages, wood piles and basements. They may hide under furniture, in stored clothing, inside shoes and behind baseboards. Most brown recluse bites occur when spiders are disturbed by cleaning of these locations. Inspecting bedding, towels,and clothing before use and wearing thick gloves when handling firewood or moving storage boxes will reduce your risk of a brown recluse bite.