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Brown Recluse Bite: Pictures, Stages, Symptoms & Treatment

Updated on July 27, 2015

Surprisingly, most spiders found in the United States aren't capable of puncturing human skin. Two exceptions to this are the black widow and the brown recluse. Brown recluse spiders, found in the southern U.S. states, can bite and the wounds can lead to several health complications. Spider bites are rare, however. Most reported cases of spider bites turn out to actually be skin infection or a bite from another insect. Bites from brown recluse spiders are usually on the hands, arms, or legs and happen when the spider accidentally bumps into a person and bites to protect itself.

Brown recluse spiders tend to live in warm, dry locations with minimal activity, such as basements, attics, below sinks, or beneath woodpiles and gardening supplies.

It is easy to identify a brown recluse spider: They have a distinct, violin-shaped mark in the center of their backs (they are sometimes called violin spiders.) They are relatively small in size. Male adults can grow up to an inch.

Their bite is a severe medical condition that requires urgent medical attention.

Signs of a Brown Recluse Bite

A bite from a brown recluse spider can cause severe symptoms and lead to considerable damage, including:

  • A rash, confusion, and/or mild fever or malaise.
  • Pain in the abdomen, pain or stiffness in the joints, headaches, fever, feeling of being unwell, cramping or increased tenseness of muscles, and vomiting.
  • Rarely, fatality. Children however are at greater risk because of their small body size.

Stages of a Recluse Spider Bite

The first stage is reddening and stinging at the bite site. Sometimes the skin may become thick and puffy. This stage may last a few seconds or a few hours.
The first stage is reddening and stinging at the bite site. Sometimes the skin may become thick and puffy. This stage may last a few seconds or a few hours.

Brown recluse spider bites go through three stages, all within the first 24 hours after the bite.

  1. Stinging and Redness The bite will initially cause a stinging sensation. This is caused by the discharge of spider venom into the blood. The stinging may disappear after a few seconds or it may last for many hours. The sensation is accompanied by redness and inflammation of the site. It may also cause a thickening and puffiness of the affected skin.
  2. Pain Patients may experience extreme pain during the second stage, typically about eight hours after the bite. The pain may become excruciating over time. It is caused by the absorption of poison by the muscle tissues.
  3. Blister development and ulceration The final stage appears after approximately 24 hours and is characterized by the formation of a blister at the location of the spider bite. Later, the blister thickens and crusts over leaving an open wound which ultimately develops into a large ulcer. Such ulcers do not heal easily. Left untreated, they can result in secondary infections.

Spider Bite Two Months Later

A recluse spider bite after two months. The flesh in the area of the bite is necrotized and was removed a month later.
A recluse spider bite after two months. The flesh in the area of the bite is necrotized and was removed a month later. | Source

Treating a Recluse Spider Bite

Treating a Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Follow these self-care guidelines to alleviate symptoms:

  • Thoroughly wash the area with cool water and an antiseptic soap.
  • If possible, elevate the affected area over the level of the heart.
  • Do not engage in any physical activity as it will spread the spider’s toxins through the body.
  • Wrap an ice pack with a towel and apply to the bite to relieve swelling and pain. You may also take a pain medication like Ibuprofen. Do not take aspirin as it thins the blood.
  • Consult a doctor. If required, the physician may give a tetanus booster shot.
  • If possible, bring the culprit spider to the doctor for identification and investigation.

Avoid the below under all circumstances:

  • Heat or warm compressors.
  • A cut to the affected tissue or use of suction gadgets to remove spider poison
  • Hydrocortisone or other steroid creams on the site of the spider bite.
  • Electricity to the affected site can result in secondary burns and aggravate the destruction of tissue.

Hospitalization is rarely required. It is however important for patients to go for regular checkups until the wound has completely healed.

Scarring From Spider Bite Ulcers

Scars left over from healed brown recluse spider bites.
Scars left over from healed brown recluse spider bites. | Source


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    • JamieKay1978 profile image

      Jamie 5 months ago from Omaha, NE

      shaped like a penny, blistery and infection has set in. Its eating my skin and the itch is a torture... day after my whole left side of face was blown up... I need some advice please. I think this is a brown recluse... very hard around the bite

    • profile image

      Sue wing 7 months ago

      My husband got a bite I used wound care xero petroleum guaze everyday ! It's closed the wound and staph plus on 2 antiobotics ! 2 times a day clean the affected area with soap and water then use sterile water rinse the area and apply the xero petroleum guaze ! It took 8 weeks to close but worked !

    • profile image

      sandy 10 months ago

      I think I was bit by a spider today it had a puncture mark and was swollen and about 8 hrs later there was a blister that I punctured to get the poison out so now it looks like two bites. Im nervous should I go to the doctor

    • profile image

      Jorge badillo 18 months ago

      Please Tell me what this is

    • profile image

      Sherry 20 months ago

      It's the 7th day today, is it ok to apply granules?

    • profile image

      drpaul007 2 years ago

      I agree with venom er, along with the proven fact that one can render the venom as non-invasive by the use of electrical stimuli. Do your own research rather then repeat what others have stated as incorrect.

    • profile image

      Venom ER 2 years ago

      Please remove these photos. Most are not related to brown recluse bites in the least. For example the Lyme Disease erythema migrans "bulls-eye" followed by a photo of an infected black widow bite. Next time, please do some research before posting "credible" information, okay?

    • profile image

      emily 2 years ago

      Now I know how bad the biteis and how to treate it

    • profile image

      Chicken man 2 years ago

      y am i reading dis

    • profile image

      guy 2 years ago

      One of those is not a spider bite.

    • profile image

      jack 2 years ago