Of all the species of spiders, only selected few have fangs long enough and venom strong enough to cause any significant medical repercussions for humans. For instance, an overwhelming majority of the 3000 species of spiders found in the US are nontoxic, with only the black widow and brown recluse capable of engendering any serious systemic reactions in the human body. But despite the severity of these bites, the damage is rarely ever fatal.
Causes of Spider Bite
You can take comfort in the knowledge that unlike a lot many blood-sucking insects and bugs, spiders are not parasitic or predatory in nature. These eight-legged arthropods do not bite to feed on humans but, more likely, as a defense mechanism. This is precisely the reason most spiders prefer to reside in reclusive, isolated areas and settings such as closets, garages, sheds, woodpiles, and attics.
Given that spiders, barring a few exceptions, usually bear feeble fangs incapable of puncturing the skin to insert the venom, most spider bites, medically known as arachnidism, are not a matter of concern.(3) It is, however, not uncommon for skin rashes and sores inflicted by other bogus or stemming from an unrelated infection to be mistaken for spider bites. Furthermore, spider bites can even trigger allergic reactions in some people.
Symptoms of Spider Bite
Bites from most spiders usually generate mild symptoms such as:
- Localized inflammation
- Redness around the bite
- Pain like that of a bee sting around the bite site, which typically sets in within an hour or two of being bitten
However, bites from poisonous spiders like black widow or brown recluse spiders that generally live in undisturbed areas can be dangerous.(4)
Symptoms of a black widow spider bite:
- Fang marks or two tiny holes at the affected site
- Pain that sets in within an hour of envenomation and can range from mild to severe and spread from the bite site to the abdomen, back, or chest.
- Severe muscular cramps in the abdomen that are similar to the pain emanating from a ruptured appendix.
- A headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bite site that may become increasingly red or swollen over time
Symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite:
- Pain at the affected site that progressively intensifies for the first 8 hours
- Bite site that may develop a blister that is pale, blue, or purple, with maybe a bit of redness around the periphery.
- Stiff and painful joints
- Fever and chills
- Bites take at least a week to form a crust
- The bitten area is dry and devoid of any pus
- Muscle cramps
- Labored breathing
Symptoms of an allergic reaction triggered by a spider bite:
- Swollen face or mouth
- Tightness in the chest and wheezing
- Difficulty in breathing, swallowing or speaking
Depending on the type of spider, the symptoms may last a few hours to several days or even weeks.
Prevention of Spider Bite
- To prevent spider bites, wear a long-sleeve shirt and pants, a hat, gloves, and boots when handling stored boxes or firewood.
- Be extra careful when cleaning out sheds, garages, basements, attics, and crawl spaces.
- Inspect and shake out gardening tools that have not been in use for a while.
- Keep spiders out of the house by installing tight-fitting screens on windows and doors.
- Discard old boxes, clothing, and other unwanted items from storage areas.
- Remove piles of rocks from your garden area.
When to See a Doctor
It is recommended to get medical help, especially if you experience symptoms such as:
- Severe swelling
- Intense pain and stiffness
- Muscle spasms
- Fever and chills
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Lightheadedness (2)(4)
At times, the bite may not appear to be serious immediately but may become severe after some time.
When treating spider bites, the main goal is to neutralize the bite and get rid of any toxins in the body. Many effective home remedies can ease the symptoms and promote healing. If symptoms fail to subside after a few days, see a doctor.
Here are the top 10 home remedies that help heal spider bites naturally.
1. Ice Pack
When bitten by a spider, the first thing you need to do is to disinfect the wound by cleaning it with mild soap and water. Then, apply an ice pack on the affected area. The cold temperature will help numb the nerve endings, soothe the itching sensation, and reduce swelling and inflammation.(5)
- Wrap a few ice cubes in a thin towel and place it on the affected area, only for 10 minutes at a stretch. Continue doing this on and off for as long as needed, during the initial 24 hours.
- You can also put the affected area under cool running water for a few minutes.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda is an effective treatment for spider bites. This alkaline substance can help draw out the venom responsible for all the discomforting symptoms, thereby reducing pain, itching, and inflammation.(6)
- Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 3 teaspoons of water.
- With the help of a cotton ball, apply this mixture on the affected area and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Wash the area with lukewarm water.
- If the discomfort persists, repeat after a few hours.
Salt is another easy remedy due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.(7) It can effectively withdraw the venom from the wounded site to promote quick recovery. In addition, it reduces inflammation and redness.
- Wash the affected area thoroughly with lukewarm water.
- Sprinkle some table salt on a wet washcloth. (You can also use kosher or sea salt.)
- Bandage this washcloth onto the affected part for a couple of hours, and then remove it.
- Re-apply as needed.
4. Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is another treatment option. It has an innate absorption property that helps draw out and remove toxic substances from the body.(8) After the toxic substance is out of the body, the inflammation and tenderness reduce automatically.
- Make a paste of some activated charcoal using a little water. Apply it on the affected area after cleaning it thoroughly with warm water. To keep the paste in place, put a bandage over it. Repeat every 3 hours for the first day to neutralize the toxin. If needed, follow the remedy the next day also.
- You can also take activated charcoal capsules, after running it by your doctor.
Another easy and effective method is to use a starchy potato. It can bring down the itching and inflammation,(9) largely due to its anti-irritant and soothing properties. In addition, it keeps the affected area moisturized to encourage quick healing.
- Peel and grate 1 large potato after washing it thoroughly.
- Put a handful of the wet potato shreds into a piece of thin cloth and tie it securely.
- Clean the affected area with rubbing alcohol, and then put the potato poultice on it.
- Leave it until the potato begins to dry.
- Discard the old potato poultice, and clean the area with warm water.
- Re-apply fresh poultice, repeating until the symptoms improve.
You can also relieve minor symptoms of spider bites using aspirin. It works to counteract the toxic effects of the venom to promote quick recovery. In addition, it boasts of strong anti-inflammatory properties(10) that can help bring down swelling and inflammation.
- Soak 1 to 2 aspirin tablets in a little water to form a paste.
- Apply this paste on the affected area.
- Leave it on for a couple of hours, and then wash it off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat 1 or 2 more times, if needed.
This spice is a natural painkiller containing anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antioxidant properties.(11) Needless to say, turmeric is a safe and readily available adjunctive treatment for reducing the pain, swelling, and inflammation caused by a spider bite.
- Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder with enough olive oil to form a paste. Apply this paste on the affected area. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water.
- Alternatively, mix 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder, a handful of thoroughly washed Indian lilac (neem) leaves, and a little water in a blender to make a thick paste. Apply it on the affected area, leave it on for 20 minutes, and then rinse it off with warm water.
- Repeat either of these remedies a few times.
8. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice also has a mitigating effect on the itching, swelling, and inflammation induced by the spider bite and thus can prove helpful in alleviating the discomfort. Being a natural astringent,(12) it also helps quickly dry out skin rashes caused by spider bites as well as prevent infection.
- Extract the juice from a fresh lemon and apply it on the affected area using a cotton ball. Let it dry, and then rinse it off with lukewarm water.
- Alternatively, you can take a piece of lemon and rub it against the affected area for 2 to 3 minutes. Wait for another 5 minutes, and then rinse it off.
- Follow either of these remedies a few times a day.
9. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera gel is a skin salve of considerable merit, having been used for centuries in the treatment of a number of skin conditions. This gel has natural antiseptic as well as anti-inflammatory and soothing properties(13) that can help reduce pain, swelling, and itching emanating from spider bites. Additionally, this all-natural balm helps keep the affected area moisturized.
- Thoroughly wash an aloe vera leaf.
- Slit it open to extract the gel.
- Apply this fresh gel on the affected area.
- Re-apply a few times a day for a few days.
This herb exhibits anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation.(14) It even soothes and calms itchiness caused by spider bites.
- Rub freshly extracted peppermint juice on the affected area. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water. Repeat once or twice more, if needed.
- Alternatively, apply 1 or 2 drops of peppermint oil directly on the affected area 2 or 3 times a day.
- Monitor the bite for a couple of days to keep a check on how well the symptoms are healing.
- If you happen to spot the spider that bit you, try to memorize its appearance as identifying the species can help zero in on the appropriate treatment plan.
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