Brown Recluse Spider Bites on the Rise, Expert Warns
TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 -- Although the bite of a brown recluse spider is poisonous, these wounds usually heal well if left alone, an expert notes.
It's still important to recognize the warning signs of an adverse reaction to a brown recluse spider bite, warned Dr. Donna Seger, medical director of the Tennessee Poison Center, particularly since these potentially dangerous bites are on the rise.
"As physicians, it is hard for us to do nothing. The [bite] has classic characteristics, but if physicians are not familiar with this bite, the tendency is to debride [remove infected tissue] and cut out the lesion," she explained in a Vanderbilt University Medical Center news release. "This actually slows the healing process, and can result in disfigurement that would not occur if the lesion were left alone."
Ointments, antibiotics and the anti-infective medication dapsone should not be applied to a brown recluse spider bite wound, Seger added. She also recommended using ice for pain management rather than strong painkillers.
In some cases, brown recluse spider bites can cause symptoms throughout the body. Warning signs of this syndrome include fever, rash and muscle pain.
These symptoms may occur with or without the breaking down of red blood cells, which can be life-threatening, particularly for children.
"We don't know why [this] occurs in some people with a brown recluse spider bite and not in others, but it is life-threatening and does require immediate medical attention," explained Seger.
"Our recommendations are that all children under 12 with a brown recluse spider bite should have a urine test for the presence of hemoglobin [the compound in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body] in blood," she said.
The brown recluse spider is also known as the violin spider because it has a violin-shaped marking on its back. These spiders have six eyes, and are often less than an inch long. Brown recluse spiders are typically a light brown color, but some may appear cream-colored, dark brown or dark gray.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on venomous spiders.
Posted: July 2014