During a recent day at the lake, my 7-year old was swimming around the boat, when he suddenly started complaining that something on his leg was burning. He got pretty vocal, which prompted us to pull him out of the water, where we were able to identify a spider bite. He seemed to be OK, but we started wondering about the potential side effects of spider bites. Particularly in conjunction with the epileptic seizures.
Spider Bites & The Possible Side Effects
The good news is that, of the 30,000 types of spiders out there, only about 100 are known to actually bite humans. The bad news though, is without the offending spider available for positive identification, spider bites are hard to identify, as the injury has many visual cues in common with fungal infection, snake bites, ticks, and other insects. Having said all that, one common feature of most spider bites is the appearance of three concentric circles, which can be see in this picture. The first is a small blister at the center, the second is clearly outlined in a red circle, and the third circle you can see faintly, in a pale blue. This is two days after the bite occurred. The original injury showed an angry red circle, with a lesser outer circle.
Side effects from spider bites can vary enormously. Generally speaking, the bite itself is relatively painless, and shortly thereafter, a mild burning and itching sensation develops. Although even non-venomous spider bites can be quite uncomfortable, if the bite is serious, the following side effects may develop:
- stomach cramps
- difficulty breathing
In the United States, only two of the approximately 100 spiders known to bite are truly dangerous to humans. Those are the brown recluse and black widow. The brown recluse, known for its “flesh-killing” bite, is actually the less serious of the two, as reactions are usually localized to a small area. By contrast, a black widow bite have the potential to be extremely serious, as side effects may include rigidity and generalized muscle spasms, with children and the elderly at greater risk for more serious problems. This makes it important to identify the kind of spider bite if possible, since what to do for a spider bite varies based on the source of the bite.
According to Poison Control Statistics, there hasn’t been a death in the United States from a spider bite in over a decade. Antivenin is available in hospitals for black widow spider bites, so if you believe you’ve been bitten, it’s important to seek medical care quickly, as treatment is available.