Spider Bites

By Heather Legg

I’ve noticed a few blogs and articles lately on insect bites and stings, as the onset of summer brings the onset of bugs, time outdoors and insects. So lo and behold, my daughter’s best friend just got a nasty spider bite. There is no real danger for her, just a welt on her leg that has lasted for over a week. Her mom is taking good care of it with Benadryl and Cortisone cream and it’s getting better.

We’ve all heard nightmare stories of spider bites, the flesh eating itself, the eggs imbedding in the skin, all kinds of horrific tales. Are they true? I’m not really here to answer those types of questions, but I do have some information on allergic reactions to the bite of a spider. According to this article, the author writes that “biting insects almost never cause systemic reactions”, i.e. anaphylaxis. That is good news.  The bad news, almost never is not conclusive enough. So let’s get to the worst first. You are bitten by a spider and within minutes you find that you are having trouble breathing. Chances are, you haven’t been bitten by this type of spider before and you need to rush to the hospital for some epinephrine. Now you know you are allergic to whatever kind of spider that bit you (hard to know) and you can keep an Epipen with you in case it happens again.

For most of us bitten by spiders, however, like my daughter’s friend, it won’t be that severe (this doesn’t count the dangerous bite of spiders like the brown recluse or black widow spider because they are life threatening for everyone). It is more likely that the stingers, like the bees and wasps will cause life threatening allergic reactions, but the spiders can still leave a painful bite that is worse in some people than others; an allergy. So what do you do if bitten by a spider?

You will know that you’ve been bitten by redness, swelling, itching and pain at the location of the bite. If the pain and redness increase after 24 hours or if new symptoms occur like headache or stomachache, there is cause for concern.

“Look for redness spreading away from the bite, drainage from the bite, increase in pain, numbness/tingling, or a discoloration around the bite that looks like a halo or bullseye,”

according to firstaid.about.com. These are some signs of a reaction that needs treatment.

Again, allergy plays an ambiguous role here, as in a lot of cases. You may define it as an anaphylactic reaction to the bite, or to the localized pain and redness more commonly seen. Either way, no one wants to be bitten by a spider, and if bitten, most of us will react in one or the other. Call your doctor for the best treatment, which can be anything from antihistamines to pain medicine to cortisone to hospitalization.

Sources:
http://firstaid.about.com/od/bitesstings/qt/07_spider_bites.htm
http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/custom/today/bal-to.hs.expert15may15,0,930543.story

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