Unless your name is Peter Parker, chances are a spider bite is something you’d like to avoid. When a spider sinks its pesky little teeth into human skin, the reaction can be a mild annoyance. But, depending on the offender’s species, it could be a life-threatening situation.
For the most part, a spider bite looks like that of any other bug. In most cases, the affected area will be sore, inflamed, and reddened. Depending on the spider’s size, you may even notice where the two fangs punctured the skin.
The great news is that only a tiny percentage of spider species (less than 20 out of 40,000) can kill a human being. That said, spider bites can still be painful and annoying.
In general terms, spider bites look very different depending on the spider species. The arachnid size also affects the wound's appearance, but they all share a few common traits.
The most common visual clues are swelling and redness in the affected area. Most spider bites look like a bad mosquito bite.
If the bite is recent, you might even notice the two puncture holes left by the spider’s fangs. This puncture mark usually disappears as the skin begins to swell and redden.
When it comes to a spider bite’s symptoms, you may experience rash-like symptoms. There may be itchiness and a burning sensation in the affected area.
All and all, most spider bites are tough to tell apart from those of other biting bugs. You may mistake them for mosquito, ticks, or flea marks.
In most cases, unless you see a spider biting you, the culprit could be any other biting critter.
Most spider bites go unnoticed until the rash-like symptoms first appear.
So yes, spider bites are painful regardless of the species. And that’s because all spiders produce venom to some degree. When they bite you, they are injecting these toxins into your skin.
Of course, the pain level varies depending on the spider's poison levels. The size of its fangs and whether you have an allergic reaction also affect the pain.
For the small, non-dangerous spiders, the pain level is usually like the one caused by a bee sting.
It hurts, but you’ll live.
Yet, something you need to keep in mind is that spider bites usually take longer to heal than mosquito bites.
In the vast majority of cases, household spiders are the cause of most bites. The most common perpetrators are jumping, American household, and wolf spiders.
The most common household spider species can bite people but don’t cause major health issues. There may be an uncomfortable rash, though.
That said, a handful of spider species can produce venom strong enough to harm or even kill a human.
Some of the deadliest spider species on Earth include:
These spiders’ venom is far more powerful. But their bites can look very similar to those inflicted by common house spiders. At least at first.
A bite from a venomous spider can get redder and more swollen within minutes.
Additionally, some of these bites can develop into skin lesions. Toxins injected into the flesh destroy the capillaries that carry blood and oxygen. Without blood, the tissue becomes necrotic.
Now let's talk about the symptoms. A bite from a black widow can cause a sharp agonizing burning pain radiating to the abdomen or chest.
This pain can also come with high fever, nausea, cramps, headache, anxiety, and even delirium.
But painful deaths derived from a spider bite are not as common as you may think.
Before antivenom was available, black widow bites had a mortality rate of around 5% in the USA.
Currently, spider-bite-related deaths in the US remain at zero a year for the past few decades.
Even Australia, where most animals seem to exist only to kill humans, hasn’t reported one single death by spider bite since 1979.
Suppose you live in an area with venomous spiders or suspect that one bit you, seek medical attention. And try to be as fast as possible!
The following symptoms are reasons to concern after a suspected spider bite:
A trained medical professional can give you appropriate treatment.
The treatment may include antivenom, painkillers, and localized ointments to prevent infections.
Spider bites (especially from household spiders) can sometimes go unnoticed. These bites may not even need further treatment. But there may be complications for a small percentage of the population.
Like bee stings, spider bites can cause severe allergic reactions in some people.
Some of the signs to look out for after a spider bite include:
If you notice any of these signs on you or someone else, contact a medical professional right away.
If you know you're allergic to spider bites, keep epinephrine auto-injectors (EpiPen) near.
Besides allergic reactions, infections are the most significant problem associated with spider bites.
Even non-venomous spiders can carry harmful germs on their fangs. These damaging germs then create several problems once they get under the skin.
Some people may also cause (or worsen) the infection by scratching or picking on the area around the bite. No matter how itchy your skin is, it would help if you never touched it.
Infected spider bites will become more swollen and darker in color as the days pass. They will also hurt more and be itchier.
Prevention is better than cure. So, these are some steps you need to take to prevent a spider bite from getting infected.
But symptoms can get worse within the following 24 hours after treating a spider bite. Thus, you may need to seek medical attention.
The symptoms to look for are severe pain, numbness, or tickling. Likewise, redness or discoloration around the bite in the shape of a halo or bull's-eye is a bad sign.
If you experience any of the symptoms described, please contact a medical professional. These are signs of infection, and attempting to take care of them can be dangerous.
After careful examination, your doctor will decide on the best course of treatment. This treatment may include oral antibiotics, ointments, and painkillers.
In this article, we have talked about bites from wild spiders. But what about pet tarantulas?
You might be thinking that due to their size, tarantulas must be deadly!
And yes, tarantulas, like all spiders, have a venomous bite. That said, their toxins can kill small animals but are, in reality, harmless to humans.
To be clear, a bite from a tarantula does hurt, but the pain is like a bee sting. The affected area might get swollen and tender to the touch, but it isn't life-threatening.
The most significant risk of a tarantula bite is an allergic reaction or an infection. This risk is common in most spiders.
If a tarantula bites you, follow the advice above: water, soap, antibacterial ointments. Advil and localized ice packs will make also help.
Contact a trained medical professional if the bite doesn't improve after 24h. As we mentioned before, a doctor will know how to treat the wound if there are any complications.