Have you been bitten by a spider? If so, then this page will provide you with some great information about treating spider bites. Even though 80% of bite victims never see what actually bit them, most assume it’s a spider and most point the finger at the Brown Recluse Spider.
Spiders rarely attack people and bite only when threatened, such as when hiding in clothing and being pressed against the skin. Only a few spiders are big enough to inject their venom into your skin and of those spiders, only a few species have venom strong enough to do any damage.
Some experts recommend capturing the spider while others warn against it do to increased risk of being bitten a second time. Having the spider will most definitely help in the identification and treatment process.
If you can’t find the spider and didn’t see what bit you, or if you have multiple bites, it’s probably a TIC, Bed Bug or something other than a spider.
Unfortunately, many Doctors have not had to treat spider bites and information on identification and treatment is often confusing. Below, you’ll find a number of comments that have been left by visitors from around the world; this information may help your doctor with the treatment process.
One visitor, Gerald, stood out among the rest and offered some great information on the treatment of spider bites; I’ll start off with his story and go from there. Feel free to leave comments and I’ll make sure they get posted to the site.
I could write a book about spider bite treatment, but I’ll get right to the bottom line. My wife and I have been bitten by Brown Recluse spiders several times each over the last 20 plus years thanks to our rural Northwest Arkansas farm lifestyle. Fortunately we knew a quick, safe and economical cure for them so it was a 10 minute distraction to treat it, making it little more than a mosquito bite. We learned it from our vet long ago, after my first bite went poorly.
In our area farm vets combine a high incidence of personal Brown Recluse bites with a lot of medical knowledge. Who could be more motivated or equipped to find the cure? Vets fix themselves by injecting 1/10th CC of Dexamethasone (a cortisone) divided into two or three subcutaneous shots right around the perimeter of the bite inflamed area. [Dexamethasone is a high potency steroid used to decrease swelling and inflammation]. He recently said he had used it to treat himself six or more times in his career plus a few times on his kids and wife. My wife and I together tally about a dozen bites treated that way.
I once asked a farm vet in another town where we take horses how he treated his spider bites and he told me the same thing. Over the years about two dozen of our friends with bites tried our advice with complete success. In total that is almost 50 bites given this treatment that I know of, and every single one started to mend immediately. There were no failures and no negative consequences. Several times a friend told his doctor what he had learned and what he needed done, and the doctor did it, usually saying something like “Sounds reasonable to me. I know the way I’ve been doing it doesn’t work well and there is no risk with such a tiny dose. There is no down side to trying it.” Not all react that way though.
None of the bites caught early needed antibiotic treatment and more than half got none. If a doctor is doing the injections they usually prescribe antibiotics too. If it gets to the open lesion stage you need them. Treatment in the first 48 hours is always best, but it works much later too.
The worst case I’ve seen cured was a woman sharing a hospital room with my mom about 10 years ago. She had a bite on her foot and had been in the hospital about two weeks when we met her. The lesion was about 3 inches across and about every other day the doctor unwrapped it and scraped the necrotic tissue out to her heart rendering screams. He and a consulting doctor had begun to discuss amputation. We told her and her husband and two adult kids of our experiences and advised they consult some out of town doctors. They found a doctor in Springfield, MO that had used cortisone to successfully treat several cases. When her then doctor refused to listen, confer with the other one, or release her, they took her out anyway. About two months later we got a long letter profusely thanking us for butting in. She was by then healed up and on her feet again, feeling we probably saved her foot and maybe more. No doubt that took more than a tenth of a CC.
Other kinds of cortisone might work, but both vets preferred Dexamethasone. It is thin like water so can be injected through tiny insulin needles, an important matter when injecting a super tender spot three times. A tenth of a CC isn’t much. It is about like 1/8th of an inch of a wooden pencil eraser, then split that in thirds per injection. That is a small fraction of a normal systemic dose given for arthritis and such, so risks are also tiny. Visit MedLinePlus and read the precautions so you will know what to advise your doctor about, like pregnancy or fungal infections.
It’s not new knowledge. My bad first bite I mentioned was in the eyebrow. I had a small bump there but thought it was just a rare zit. I also had a bad sinus headache I tried to treat with hot compresses and a muscle massager on the cheek to break it loose. The third day I had to take a flight some states away to deal with another’s emergency. I woke up with one side of my face badly swollen, but had to go. The pain and swelling became worse as time passed and it was two more days of frantic work before I could get to a doctor without causing another crisis. By then I was a mess, but recovery began after a big cortisone shot (unsure what kind) in the hip. The doctor said he usually injected around the bite, but he couldn’t because cortisone injections near an eye can damage it. That doctor knew and discussed site injections with me back then, well before we happened on the topic with our vet. Back then I didn’t grasp the rarity of that doctor’s knowledge of spider bites or my good fortune in going to him for treatment.
Combining my doctor’s information with that of the vets taught us an effective treatment we used occasionally, but had no clue so few others knew it. That only came over time as others told us their past or pending treatment methods. Many we headed off, but some we couldn’t. About 1996 the web came along and gave me a peek into how pervasive ineffective treatment was. The web was slow, and blogs were rare, but all the medical “fact” sites said the “antibiotic only, cut open, scrape, suffer, and live with the crater” was the only effective spider bite treatment. Most shared verbatim wording. I thought I ought to write up what I knew and get it out there somehow, but wasn’t sure how, so I procrastinated.
Today I’m re-motivated, because this month a friend had a recent spider bite on his finger treated the old way and it turned into the typical horror story. That led me to begin searching the web for sites that gave good treatment advice to refer others to. I was shocked. Twelve years after I looked last time, nothing is better. Only the volume of horror stories has grown. Twelve years ago a letter like this might have altered our current reality. Well, maybe by 2020 ——. There is very little mention of treatment with cortisone or especially site injection. A couple of visitors on this site www.badspiderbites.com/brown-recluse-spider-bite/ like #67 received systemic cortizone treatment and it fixed them but that’s about it.
By telling you this I am not advocating self medication! I am however, suggesting that you ask your doctor how your bite will be treated; if the old way is mentioned (cut and scrape), then offer the information found on this page. If your doctor is closed minded and is not open to suggestions, then it may not be a bad idea to seek the advice of another doctor.
A doctors knowledge is based on experience and not all doctors have had experience with treating spider bites. We found that the emergency room and after hours clinic doctors seem to be more open minded and have steered several friends in this direction who later reported back that their ER doctor said “sure, that is how we treat spider bites anyway”, and not just locally. For example, a relative was helping move someone to Atlanta. While loading he was bitten on the stomach. Days later and the night before they were leaving at 6 AM I saw him and he was worried about it. I told him to go to an ER along the way or once there and what to ask for. In Atlanta they injected around the site, saying that was their normal treatment, and he was healed in few days. If that fails too, ask a farm vet how he treats his own bites and what doctor he suggests.
I’m not a doctor, and I’m not giving medical advice beyond “it’s OK to shop for the right doctor” but this treatment approach needs exposure, discussion, and trials. I believe widespread use could eliminate untold suffering and costs to people like earlier writers to these blogs. If you have any questions I’ll be watching this site for discussion. If you want to discuss something privately, Jim has my email address.
Thanks for sharing Gerald!
Spider Bite Treatment at Home used by Gerald:
Gerald offered the above information to help those seeking medical attention with treatment suggestions that can be offered to the doctor. The information below is what Gerald and his wife use to prevent the need for a trip to the hospital.
NOTE: We are in no way suggesting that bite victims try treatment without consulting a doctor first and in fact, we strongly urge you to seek the advice of your doctor immediately after being bitten. However, when doing so, and after reading Gerald’s story, you’ll have information that you can present to your doctor that he/she may approve or disapprove of. I’ll repeat this statement at the end of Gerald’s home treatment.
My wife is hyper-sensitive to all kinds of stings and bites. A bee sting that is ten minutes of pain to most of us would usually cause so much swelling a trip to the doctor for a cortizone shot was needed. The doctor prescribed an Epi-pen (Epinephrine emergency injector) in case she reacted even more severely sometime.
That all changed when we discovered the Sawyer Bite & Sting Kit, also called the Extractor. Imagine a big plastic syringe with a cup on the nose that somehow creates great suction when you push the plunger down. It sucks lymph and poisons right back out the same holes they went in without need for cutting. Routine stings and bites quit hurting her in 15 minutes and no swelling occurs.
Though primarily a snake bite tool, it is just amazing for plain bites and stings from bugs of all kinds, cleansing small puncture wounds, and especially poisonous spider bites. We have an Extractor in every car, truck, tractor, and building on the ranch. By the way, you can buy them in the sporting goods department of most Wal-Mart stores for $13.97 last time I checked. (Incidentally, I have no connection to either Wal-Mart or Sawyer)
To use, select a clear cup that fits the bite site and press/twist fit it into the nose of the yellow barrel. When you apply the Extractor the skin humps up like half a marble from its power. I’m surprised it doesn’t cause a hickey but it never does. You may suck some blood out and that’s OK. Especially if applying to a puncture wound. A few minutes is usually enough. The disposable razor is there to shave a spot if hair is breaking its seal.
Because this is mechanical removal of venom or contamination, it can work on almost any kind of skin breach, unless already bleeding too much to help. From splinters to Black Widow bites it has got to help if used promptly.
I once attended the Waurika, OK rattlesnake festival. There was a small sunken stage with about 400 rattlers piled around and a half dozen guys (women are to smart?) wading among them and doing unreasonable things with them. The point is, they had some EMTs standing there, each with cocked Sawyer units in hand.
Two warnings: Don’t get blood inside the yellow barrel, or get water in it during cleanup. That can damage it. It is a complex mechanism inside with springs, seals, lube, etc. Also, too much force attaching the cup can crack the barrel nose causing an air leak and ruining its value. Glue can fix it usually.
Don’t confuse the Extractor with those little rubber cup snake bite kits that have been around for at least 60 years which contain a little pointed razor for cutting open the bite site before trying to suction out the venom. Those old kits contain instructions such as “Relax, stay calm, keep your heart rate down” and “start cutting X’s on yourself”; In my opinion, such kits kits are so bad it ought to be a crime to sell them to the unsuspecting. If you check the medical sites like Emedicine, Medicinenet, etc., you’ll find such kits are not recommended but they do say good things about the Extractor.
Unfortunately the medical sites don’t recognize the Extractor’s value in treating spider bites, where they specifically caution against doing any kind of suction treatment. That isn’t surprising since most of their other Brown Recluse advice is wrong too. I wrote the earlier story about the quick, effective treatment by Dexamethasone injected around the bite. Actually, we now reserve that for older more advanced bites. If we get a bite now, we normally know by the delayed burning pain in a few hours. Usually we can see the twin fang marks on the red mound also. We use the Extractor on it, pulling out one or two tiny beads of lymph containing the venom, then put a good dollop of cortisone creme on the spot, cover that with a bandaid, and by morning the bite is history.
Here is why I think it works so well for spider bites, and is also relevant to the Dexamethasone site injection method too. The bites are extremely shallow, unlike a fang injected snake bite. The venom is deposited in the first under layers of the skin served only by the very slow moving lymphatic system, not the fast moving blood circulatory system, and there it stays for many days. It and its associated bacterial infection don’t start moving much until the necrotic hole eats it way deep enough to get into the faster circulatory system.
The early swelling and pain up a limb plus fever and overall illness make one think that the venom has traveled a lot, but I don’t think that is true. Most of that is the allergic reaction to a small invasive injury it recognizes as a great threat. The swelling and heat is the body’s soldiers massing for battle.
The venom is usually injected inside the shell of another bug where it paralyzes them and pre-digests its insides so the spider can suck it out later. I think that the venom stays at the contact surface between the digested tissue and the healthy tissue walls of the lesion. It is not inside the good tissue, just on its surface and in the most recently digested tissue. On a small lesion of the whitehead stage (not yet open to bacterial invasion) a good suction effort seems to remove the venom with the digested tissue and some surrounding lymph. Top it off with the cortisone cream and a bandaid and you are fixed. If it has reached the open lesion stage, its time for Dexamethasone.
DISCLAIMER: We are in no way suggesting that bite victims try treatment without consulting a doctor first and in fact, we strongly urge you to seek the advice of your doctor immediately after being bitten.
Gerald’s story should serve as information that you can pass along to your doctor. Your doctor may find this information helpful. You should always seek the advice of your doctor.