Have you been bitten by a spider?

| September 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

The distinctive black widow spider features a bite that can cause symptoms of swelling, muscle cramps and spasms within an hour. TAMC specialists encourage seeking medical help if symptoms are severe. (Photo courtesy of Tripler Army Medical Center)

Dr. Grace C. O’Neil
Tripler Army Medical Center

HONOLULU — Tripler Army Medical Center, also known as TAMC, sees many patients in the emergency room claiming a spider has bitten them.

Hawaii has approximately 15 spiders that people may encounter, but only a handful are harmful to humans.

Black widow spider
Black widow spiders are found in dark, damp places. They commonly hide in woodpiles and near swimming pools. They are shiny and black and have long legs with an orange, red, or yellow hourglass shape on their underside. Females are more likely to deliver venom than males, and they bite defensively when their webs are bothered.

The bites are more serious to babies and children than to adults. Symptoms will commonly appear in 30-60 minutes and include swelling and redness to the site, muscle cramping and spasms that start near the bite and spread and worsen over 6-12 hours.

Symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, sweating, headache, low or high blood pressure, severe belly and back or chest pains are common, as well.

Seek medical help if your symptoms are severe. Anti-venom medicine to counteract the spider venom is available if you have difficulty breathing, your blood pressure changes or you are pregnant.

Brown recluse spider
The brown recluse spider is not found in Hawaii, but its relative, the brown violin, is here. They are about 0.5 inches long with a dark violin-shaped mark on the combined head and midsection. They live in hot, dry, abandoned areas, like wood or rock piles or under old boards and bark. They have also been found in closets and basements.

Brown violin spider bites don’t always hurt right away, and you may not know that you have been bitten until symptoms appear. They can include red skin that may be followed by a blister, pain and itching, and an open sore with tissue breakdown that develops in a week, or later, and may take months to heal.

You can take over-the-counter medication for the pain, and antihistamines can help with itching. Remain calm if you think you have been bitten by a brown recluse spider, as too much excitement or movement will increase the flow of venom in your blood.

You can apply a cool, wet cloth or a cloth-covered ice bag to the bite and elevate the area.

Some people have a severe, total body reaction to a brown recluse spider. You can get a low blood count from the destruction of red blood cells, fever and chills, skin rash, nausea, vomiting or joint pain. These people should go to the hospital immediately.

Bite or infection?
Many patients come to the emergency room and think they have a spider bite, but they actually have an infection.

Staphylococcus aureus (staph) is a type of bacteria on the skin and nose that exists in everyone. It can grow in wounds and cause an infection in other sites of the body.

Staph bacteria have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics related to penicillin that are used to treat it giving rise to Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). This has happened due to a combination of factors, including antibiotic over-prescribing and factory farming (farm animals are given antibiotics to prevent infections in crowded conditions).

It is found in people in health care facilities and outside of the hospital in people who have received a lot of antibiotics or have been in contact with someone carrying MRSA.

MRSA can also be found in the community now. It’s commonly found on athletic equipment, bedding, towels and clothes, benches in hot tubs or saunas or bandages.

Handwashing and avoidance of equipment-sharing can help prevent the spread of MRSA, but many people harbor MRSA because they work in the hospital.

MRSA causes disease when it enters an opening in the skin. It may appear as a swollen, sore and red area on the skin that can drain pus or other fluid. The infected area may be warm and may cause a boil. See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms.

If you have been bitten by a spider, try to catch it to identify it. This will help medical personnel administer the best treatment.

Tags: ,

Category: Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *