While most brown recluse bites happen in the fall and winter months, Branson Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine clinic’s Ray Marsh, RN, and Linda Clavin, LPN, warn that it is never a good time to let your guard down when it comes to these venomous spiders.
The brown recluse spider, also known as the violin spider, is brown in color with a characteristic dark violin-shaped marking on its head. They are usually found in dry, sheltered areas such as underneath structures logs, or in piles of rocks or leaves. If a brown recluse spider makes its way indoors, they may be found in dark closets, shoes, basements, in a pile of clothing lying in the floor or dark corners.
“They like to hide,” Clavin explained. “That is why they are called recluse.”
Although you may rarely see a brown recluse spider, Clavin said that doesn’t mean that the spiders are not there and people should exercise caution when cleaning out garages, crawl spaces, or rolling out their camping gear for the first time this summer.
“You just really have to be careful when you are getting your tents and other gear out if you’ve had it in storage,” Clavin said. “You never know where one spider could have built a nest.”
The brown recluse spider can only bite humans when some form of counter pressure is applied, such as someone slipping on a pair of hiking boots or crawling into a sleeping bag with a spider inside.
“They’ll bite on the foot, shoulder, arm and thigh, wherever they get pressured or feel threatened,” she said.
Bites may cause a stinging sensation with localized pain and a small white blister usually develops at the site of the bite. Marsh said people don’t always know when they’ve been bitten.
“If they are bitten, depending on how much venom they have, they could have physical signs, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, and it may be flu-like symptoms,” Clavin said. “If they notice a red spot, they need to watch it over the next few hours and if it becomes worse, they need to go to urgent care or their doctor. It may start out like a bite and then turn into a fluid-filled blister with redness around it.”
“It slowly kills the skin,” Marsh said. “It just eats the tissue basically.”
One of the telltale signs is when a blue ring forms around the red rash, Marsh explained.
“You need to go before that happens,” Clavin said. “It will just eat down into the skin and that is when Cox Branson’s wound care center comes in. They need to have specialized treatment and not try to take care of it themselves. It will help prevent tissue loss.”
“You just can’t put triple antibiotic ointment on it and think that it’ll heal,” Marsh said.
One thing a person can do if they are not able seek medical treatment immediately is to put baking soda on the bite, which will help neutralize the venom, Clavin said. Ice can help with the swelling.
“Don’t put any type of hydrocortisone or any type of steroid cream on it all,” Marsh said. “It will accelerate it.”
While a bite from a brown recluse is rarely fatal, the venom can kill a large area of flesh and leave permanent scaring. Cox Branson’s Wound Care Clinic and Hyperbaric Medicine can provide specialized care for patients who have been bitten by a venomous spider.
For more information about Cox Branson’s Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine clinic, call 417-335-7792.
Wound care is also available in Springfield at the CoxHealth Hyperbaric Medicine and Wound Care Center. For more information, call 417-269-9950.