Spider Bite  
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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

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Black Widow Spider
Black Widow Spider

Brown Recluse Spider
Brown Recluse Spider

  • Bite from a spider


  • Bite symptoms include redness, pain, swelling
  • Helpful if spider seen on the skin or in close proximity to the child

Types of Spider Bites

Black Widow Spider Bite

  • A shiny, jet-black spider with long legs (total size 1 inch).
  • A red (or orange) hourglass-shaped marking on its under-side.
  • Causes immediate local mild pain, swelling and occasionally 2 fang marks.
  • Severe muscle cramps (especially abdominal wall cramps) are present by 1 to 6 hours, and last 24 to 48 hours.
  • Rarely causes death (EXCEPTION: bitten by several spiders or small child is bitten)
  • Note: Many are dry bites because the fangs are small.
  • The brown widow spider is related to the black widow and is found in southern US.
  • Brown widow spider bites are treated the same as a black widow bite.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite

  • A brown spider with long legs (total size 1/2 inch).
  • A dark violin shaped marking on top of its head
  • Causes local pain and delayed blister formation in 4 to 8 hours
  • The center becomes bluish and depressed (crater-like) over 2 to 3 days
  • Skin damage may require skin grafting in 10% of cases.
  • Systemic symptoms such as fever, vomiting, muscle pain can occur (but no life-threatening symptoms).
  • Since brown recluse spiders are hard to identify, bring the spider along in a jar.

Non-dangerous Spider Bites

  • More than 50 spiders in the U.S. have venom and can cause local, nonserious reactions.
  • The bites are painful and mildly swollen for 1 or 2 days (much like a bee sting).
  • Many single, unexplained, tender bites that occur during the night are due to spiders.

If not, see these topics

First Aid:

FIRST AID Advice for Shock: Lie down with feet elevated.

FIRST AID Advice for Spider Bite (localized symptoms only):

  • Wash bite wound with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack to the area of the bite for 10-20 minutes.

FIRST AID Advice for Black Widow Spider Bite:

  • Wash bite wound with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack to the area of the bite for 10-20 minutes.
  • If possible, capture the spider and place it in a jar (for spider identification).

Special Notes:

  • Do not apply heat. Reason: It may increase the pain.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet or pressure bandage. Reason: There is no evidence that this helps.

FIRST AID Advice for Brown Recluse Spider Bite:

  • Wash bite wound with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold pack to the area of the bite for 10-20 minutes.
  • If possible, capture the spider and place it in a jar (for spider identification).
When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Passed out or too weak to stand
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Widow spider (black, brown, red, etc) bite suspected (see FIRST AID)
  • Abdominal pain, chest tightness or other muscle cramps
  • Bite pain is severe
  • Fever and bite looks infected (spreading redness)
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • New redness starts more than 24 hours after the bite (Note: infection doesn't start until at least 24 hours after the bite. Any redness in the first 24 hours is due to venom)
  • Over 48 hours since the bite and redness now becoming larger
  • Bite starts to look bad (e.g., skin damage, blister or purplish - not just swelling)
  • Bite pain persists over 2 days
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
  • Non-serious spider bite and you don't think your child needs to be seen

  1. Cleansing: Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water.
  2. Meat Tenderizer: Rub the bite area with a cotton ball soaked in a meat tenderizer solution for 20 minutes (EXCEPTION: avoid if near the eye). Do this once. If not available, apply an ice cube in a wet washcloth for 20 minutes.
  3. Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen as needed for pain.
  4. Expected Course: Some swelling and pain for 1 to 2 days. It shouldn't be any worse than a bee sting.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe bite pain persists over 2 hours after pain medicine
    • Abdominal pains or muscle spasms occur
    • Local pain lasts over 2 days (48 hours)
    • Bite begins to look infected
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 4/7/2012

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.