Spider bite symptoms and treatment

My family and I enjoy the outdoors, and we often go hiking and camping on the weekends and over school breaks. This last camping trip, my daughter was repeatedly bitten by a spider in her tent. She was okay, if a bit uncomfortable. However, I realized that I should learn more about spider bites, and how to avoid them. How can I keep the spiders away from my children? And, if one of my children is bitten, how do I know if it’s serious?

There are about 3,000 different kinds of spiders in the U.S. alone, but the majority of these bugs aren’t poisonous. Reactions to spider bites often cause acute swelling, redness, discomfort, and mild itching.

For reactions such as these, a simple home remedy is all that is necessary to ease the discomfort of a spider bite. For relief, try applying an ice pack on and off for 10 minutes at a time, elevating the bite area, giving your child an over-the-counter children’s antihistamine, and covering the wound with antibiotic ointment. Symptoms should subside within 24 hours.

If you find that the condition doesn’t improve, or the redness, swelling, or pain has become more intense, call your child’s pediatrician.

One of the greatest risks from a spider bite is an allergic reaction. Seek immediate medical attention if you note any of the following symptoms, as these could indicate a severe allergic reaction: hives, trouble breathing, passing out, or swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.

There are really only two spiders in the U.S. that anyone needs to worry about: the black widow and the brown recluse. Black widow spiders are completely black, except this breed displays a red hourglass shape on their stomachs. A bite from a black widow might produce symptoms including pain that spreads to other parts of the body, abdominal cramping, fever, nausea, and excessive sweating.

As the name suggests, brown recluse spiders are brown with a distinctive, violin-shaped marking on their heads. These bites can develop ulcerations around the site, and pain from a brown recluse bite may take up to eight hours to develop.

If you suspect that you or anyone in your family may have been bitten by either a black widow or a brown recluse spider, seek treatment immediately.

There are some preventative measures you can take to reduce your child’s chances of coming in contact with a spider. Apply insect repellent on your children before they go into the woods, and ensure that your kids wear long-sleeves and pants while exploring the great outdoors.

When on the trail or the camp site, avoid rocky formations or wood piles, as those are popular places for spiders to gather. You can also take precautions by eliminating any spider webs you may see at home.