When to Worry About a Spider Bite

Bug bites are an unfortunate part of life. Though annoying and itchy, they usually resolve without treatment and leave no permanent damage. However, some spider bites can be more problematic due to their toxic venom. It is important to know that not all spiders are venomous, but some are. Knowing about certain venomous spiders can tell people when to worry about a spider bite. 

When to Worry About a Spider Bite

One of the most important factors affecting the seriousness of a spider bite is what type of spider made the bite. Of particular concern is the brown recluse spider, though other spiders can have problematic bites as well. If one receives a bite from one of the spiders listed below, then they should have the bite evaluated by a medical professional.

Brown Recluse Spider

This species of spider is of particular concern because it is one of the few spiders that could potentially harm a human. They live in the Southern and Central states of the United States, such as Missouri, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Normally, they grow to about an inch long. They can be identified by a black marking on their back that looks like a violin. Like their name indicates, these spiders tend to hide in dark, dry, hidden places. Fortunately, they are not aggressive and will only bite when threatened or trapped. Unfortunately, they can hide in bedsheets or shoes, become trapped, and bite.

Because they carry a highly toxic venom, any bite from a brown recluse spider is a “when to worry about a spider bite.” Fortunately, they only inject a small amount when they bite and most cases result in few complications. However, in rare cases, these bites can lead to clotting problems, acute anemia, and kidney failure. The venom can also blister and turn skin the purple, which causes the skin to become necrotic. If this occurs, skin tissue dies and the bite will not heal for weeks to months. There is no anti-venom available.

Although these bites can be serious, 90% of bites have minimal complications and no deaths from these spider bites have been recorded. Skin reaction generally occur within several hours, but any yellowing, fever, rash, or vomiting that occurs in the next week should also be evaluated by a doctor. Medical treatment commonly involves antibiotics, though surgery and hospitalization are required for serious cases.

Black Widow

Living in the southern and western parts of the United States, black widow spiders are another venomous spider. They are identified by a red hourglass marking on their black bodies. Bites result in pain, nausea, cramping and restlessness. Elderly adults or children are the most at risk for health problems from these bites. Fortunately, anti-venom exists and can be administered by a doctor.

Hobo Spider

These spiders live in the Pacific northwest and run quickly on their long legs. They can bite when provoked. Their bites result in pain within 15 minutes, and the area can eventually turn into a red or purple blister that heals very slowly. Patients may also have visual changes, headaches, or nausea. Treatment is similar to that of brown recluse spider bites, with antibiotics given typically and surgery only for severe cases.


These large, hairy spiders can grow to 3-5 inches and live in deserts in the southwestern United States. One may find them hidden under rocks, in tree trunks, or tunneled inside burrows. They have venom, but it is not as harmful to humans as that of some other spiders. Still, bites can result in low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and breathing difficulties along with redness or an itchy rash. Medical attention is required if patients show more serious symptoms.

Brazilian Wandering Spider

Growing up to 5 inches, these aggressive spiders are one of the most dangerous and poisonous spiders in the world. Bites are extremely painful and cause swelling, redness, and a hot sensation. Serious cases can cause sweating, drooling, and sometimes even death. Prompt medical attention is required and anti-venom is available. Fortunately, these spiders tend to be limited to Central and South America.

Of course, whether the bite comes from one of these spiders or another, there are symptoms that will tell you when to worry about a spider bite. At the same time, while many other symptoms may be annoying, they will resolve on their own and aren’t a cause for worry.

Serious Symptoms of a Spider Bite

Any spider bite can cause some pain or a mild, itchy rash, but other symptoms require medical attention. A doctor should immediately examine any bite that is red, oozing with fluid, extremely painful, or just not healing. Any symptoms that affect the whole body, such as chills, restlessness, high blood pressure, or difficulty breathing also require a medical examination. In general, treatment is more effective when started soon after a bite.

How Do You Treat a Spider Bite?

If the bite did not come from one of the spiders above, a number of home remedies will help. If you catch it early, the Bug Bite Thing can be very helpful. Cleaning the bite area with soap and water will reduce the risk of infection. Antibiotic ointment can also help, especially if the skin begins to blister. Icing with a cold pack for 10 minutes and elevating the swollen area will help reduce swelling.

Antihistamine medication, such as Benadryl, can help with any itchiness that develops in the bite. As it heals, remember to clean the bite repeatedly to prevent the risk of infection. If the bite does not heal with these home remedies, one should seek medical attention.


Spider bites are only an annoyance in most cases. However, if the spider bite is from a brown recluse or black widow spider, that is when to worry about a spider bite. These and other spiders with venom can cause severe symptoms. Fortunately, these are only in rare cases. Most bites can be treated by cleaning the bite, ice, and medication. However, if the bite does not heal over time or results in difficulty breathing or some other systemic symptom, one should seek immediate medical attention.

Featured Photo by Ed van duijn on Unsplash

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