Another day, another spider steps into the spotlight. With all the possible spider species in Australia, it is not uncommon to see new spider species every so often. Apart from the hazardous funnel web and redback spiders, the brown recluse spider is yet another notable arachnid to note.
Other than learning more about it, we are here to determine whether this spider’s bite is dangerous to humans.
Let’s dive in and see how dangerous the bite from this spider is.
Leading Them Out of Reclusion
Before we get to the bite, let’s learn more about this type of spider. This is our opportunity to lead it out of reclusion and bring several characteristics into the light.
This spider is found throughout much of the southern and central United States. It is most common in the Midwest and southeastern states. While initially not native to Australia, there were recently increased sightings. Eventually, this species became one to be feared in Australia.
As the name suggests, they prefer to live in the dark, sheltered places such as:
- In woodpiles
- Under stones
- In debris
- In cluttered storage areas
The hot weather has now driven these spiders into people’s homes. It can also be found indoors in basements, attics, crawl spaces, and closets. Outdoors it is often seen around foundations or under porches.
The primary attractor for this spider is insects. It will also eat other spiders and small animals if it can catch them. A brown recluse’s diet primarily consists of crickets, roaches, sowbugs, and mealworms.
It is not a social spider. It does not build webs to trap prey. Instead, it stalks its prey and then grabs it with its front legs. It will also eat dead insects.
This arachnid is a nocturnal creature and is most active at night. It comes out at night to hunt for food. If it is disturbed, it will quickly retreat to its hiding place.
During the day, it hides in dark places such as under rocks, debris, or similar hiding spots around the house. They use this time for webbing that they use to create egg sacs.
The Bite of the Brown Recluse Spider
Now that we know more about what the recluse looks like, where it lives, and what it eats, let’s get to the spider bite. We want to know whether the bite is dangerous to humans and what symptoms occur from it.
Is the Bite Dangerous?
The short answer is equal parts yes and no. The recluse is a very venomous spider. Its venom rivals that of rattlesnakes. Fortunately, it can only offload a small amount of venom, often not enough to kill a person.
While they are generally not aggressive, they will bite if it feels threatened. It will also bite if it is accidentally crushed or touched. The brown recluse will usually only bite humans if there is contact with the spider itself.
Most times, their bites will heal themselves. However, there are some cases where their bite results in the death of skin cells, nerves, and blood cells.
What Happens After a Bite?
The symptoms of a bite depend on how much venom was injected into the person and how sensitive they are to the venom. In most cases, symptoms develop within 2 to 8 hours after the bite occurs.
In some cases, there may be no symptoms at all. In other cases, the following symptoms may occur:
- Intense pain
- Body aches
As always, people can be allergic to the venom within a spider. This will trigger anaphylaxis which leads to a whole new set of problems.
The venom from this spider contains a protein that can kill tissue and cause necrosis (the death of cells). This can lead to the development of a lesion at the bite site. The lesion will start as a small red bump that gradually grows.
Sometimes, the lesion can become as large as 10 cm in diameter. Lesions usually take 2 to 3 weeks to heal. If left unchecked, the necrosis can spread. A surgeon will need to remove and repair these dead tissues. In some cases, skin grafts may become necessary.
In severe but rare cases, the venom from the recluse can cause:
- Kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Muscle damage
Treatment for a Recluse Bite
If you believe a brown recluse has bitten you, you must seek medical treatment immediately. Try to capture the spider so the doctor can use it to determine the best course of treatment.
After being bitten, clean the wound with soap and water. Apply an ice pack to the area to reduce swelling.
Do not attempt to remove the venom yourself. It can cause more damage. Venom removal kits are also not effective.
Your doctor will likely give you a tetanus booster if you have not had one in the past five years. If the bite is more severe, you may need to be hospitalised. You may receive antivenom, pain medication, IV fluids, and more.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The best way to avoid being bitten is to take precautions to avoid contact with them.
First, inspect your clothing for spiders before getting dressed. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if you know there are certain spiders in an area. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks, and wear gloves.
In addition, make sure to shake out all clothing, towels, and bedding before use.
If you believe there is an infestation in your home, contact a professional pest control company. Do not attempt to remove them yourself, as this can be dangerous.
Caution and Vigilance
While not immediately fatal, the bite from a brown recluse spider is capable of imbuing necrosis which kills tissues and cells. The complications introduced could lead to life-long conditions and even death if left unchecked.
Caution and vigilance are the best elixirs towards any spider, including this one. If you add the right first aid skills and knowledge, dangerous spiders can be easily handled. Not only will it help you with handling spider bites, but it will also come in handy for many other medical emergencies.
Learn more about first aid with CPR First Aid’s Liverpool course today.