A spider bite, also called arachnidism, is an injury caused by the bite of a spider. Most spider bites are not dangerous, and children may have mild symptoms around the bite site. However, bites from black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders require emergency medical care.
Brown recluse spider venom can cause skin necrosis, which often requires skin grafting to repair the bite site. On the other hand, black widow spider venom affects the nervous system. Although antivenoms are available for black widow spider venom, they are not commonly used due to the increased risk of anaphylaxis.
Read this post to know about the types of spiders, symptoms of spider bites, risk factors, complications, prevention, and treatment options for spider bites in children.
Types Of Spiders
Most spiders are poisonous. However, the fangs of most of these specimens are too short or fragile to penetrate the human skin. Although there are various species of spiders, the following two species are known to cause severe bite injuries (1).
A black widow spider is a jet-black, shiny spider with red or orange hourglass-shaped marks on its abdomen. It is also characterized by its approximately one-inch (2.5mm) long legs. The brown widow spider, found in the southern US, is related to the black widow spider. The treatment is the same for both black and brown widow spider bites.
Brown recluse spiders are also called violin spiders, reapers, fiddle-backs, and brown spiders. Their legs measure approximately half an inch or 12mm long, and they have a dark violin-shaped mark on the head. Brown recluse spiders do not usually bite unless trapped.
Non-dangerous spiders are responsible for bites without severe reactions. Identifying the spiders can help you make the right decisions about the treatment.
Symptoms Of Spider Bite
Spider bite symptoms are caused by the venom injected into the skin. The symptoms may vary depending on the species (1) (2).
Black widows spider bites may cause the following symptoms.
- Immediate local swelling and pain on the bite site
- Two fang marks on the bite site in most cases
- Stomach cramps and muscle cramps within an hour to six hours after a bite and often lasting between 24 and 48 hours
- Itching, swelling of the eyes, dizziness, sweating, nausea, and vomiting may be seen in some children
- Headaches, anxiety, and restlessness
Some may have dry bites if the fangs are small. Death from black spider bites is rare and may occur if a child is bitten by several spiders or if the child is very young.
- Brown recluse spider bite
Brown recluse spider bites may cause the following symptoms.
- The child may experience pain and itching at the bite site
- Blisters appear on the bite site within four to eight hours
- Fever, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting may occur in some children
- The center of the bite site may become bluish and depressed or crater-like in two to three days
Although brown recluse spider bites do not cause any life-threatening issues, skin grafting may be needed in 10% of cases.
- Non-dangerous spider bites
Non-dangerous spider bites may not cause severe symptoms. Some unexplained, tender bites at night can be from non-dangerous spiders. The common symptoms of non-dangerous spider bites may include
- Pain, redness, and swelling at the bite site.
- Bee sting-like appearance
These symptoms usually last for one or two days.
It is advised to seek medical care if you are not sure about what has bitten your child. It can be confusing for many parents since spider bites may look like a bee sting in the initial stages.
Risk Factors For Spider Bites
Living in areas where spiders live and accidentally or knowingly disturbing their natural habitat may increase the risk of spider bites. Brown recluse and black widow spiders are usually found in dry, warm, and dark places (3).
Back window spiders are commonly seen in garages, sheds, woodpiles, and unused garden equipment and pots. Undisturbed areas are habitats for brown recluses, and thus their name. Dress shelves or clutter of attics or basements are common places where brown recluse spiders are found. Spiders are also commonly found under tree stumps or rocks outdoors.
Complications Of Spider Bite
Skin infection is one of the complications of spider bites in children. In some rare cases, brown recluse and black widow spider bites can cause death in some children.
How To Prevent Spider Bite In Children?
Usually, spiders, including the brown recluse and black widow spider, bite only when trapped or threatened. The following tips may help prevent spider bites in children.
- Keep the garages, woodpiles, and attics free of spider webs.
- Make children wear long sleeves and pants while playing around woodpiles or garages.
- Keep fire woods outside the house.
- Use tight-fitting window and door screens to prevent spiders from getting indoors.
- Keep beds away from the wall, avoid dragging bedding on the floor, and do not store items under beds.
In case you see a spider on a child’s body, flick it away. Do not crush it since it may increase the risk of biting.
Home Remedies For Spider Bite In Children
The following home remedies are recommended for non-dangerous spider bites (4).
- Clean the bite area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold pack to relieve pain and swelling. You may place a wet cloth or warped ice packs on the bite site for 20 minutes.
- Pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen (Advil) can be given as per pediatricians’ recommendations.
- Elevating the arms or legs if the bite site is in these areas may reduce swelling.
You may observe the bite site for any signs of infection. Seek medical care if the symptoms persist.
Treatment For Spider Bites In Children
Doctors may recommend home care measures for spider bites in most children. They may prescribe pain relievers to reduce pain and often prescribe antibiotic ointments to the affected area. This may reduce the risk of infections. A tetanus shot is usually given if the vaccine status of the child is not updated.
In some cases, doctors may give antivenom against black widow spider venom. However, it is often avoided due to the possibility of anaphylactic reactions.
When To Call A Doctor?
You may contact the pediatrician to clarify any concerns and seek home-care advice. Seek medical care in the following situations.
- Suspects black widow or brown recluse spider bite
- Pain lasts more than two hours even after taking OTC pain-relieving medications
- Muscle cramps, stomach cramps, and signs of infection such as fever and spreading redness
- Breathing problems and wheezing
Most spider bite injuries in children usually heal without long-term effects. You may also keep an eye on any signs of bacterial infection on the bite site. Although home care is recommended for non-dangerous spider bites, seek medical care if the symptoms persist or worsen.