Spider Bites—What They Look Like and How To Treat Them

Spider bites are rarely a serious health threat, but knowing which kind of spider bit you can help you get the right treatment.

spider bite picture

Of all the things to be afraid of, spiders and spider bites don't need be at the top of your list for two reasons:

The rest of the spiders out there—while they may be pretty ugly and can even bite—aren't harmful.

"People get over-alarmed when they have a spider bite," said registered pharmacist Julie A. Weber, director of the Missouri Poison Center in St. Louis and director of the poison center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. "And sometimes, it might not even be a spider bite," Weber told Health. In fact, up to 90% of the bumps people attribute to spiders are actually caused by something else, Weber added.

That said, if you do get bitten by a spider, try to catch it or take a photo of it (without getting bitten again) so it can be identified by an expert. That will help determine the best way to treat your bite. Read on to learn more about types of spiders that bite and their symptoms and treatments.

01 of 08

How Spider Bites Look and Feel

Although all spiders are different, spider bites do share some common symptoms. Most appear as tiny, red bumps on the skin that are sometimes painful and itchy. For most people, that's as bad as it gets, according to a 2022 review in the journal American Family Physician.

The National Library of Medicine says that some people may have allergic reactions to spider bites. That might include swelling around the face, itching over a larger area, and even trouble breathing.

Black widow and brown recluse spiders can both inject venom that can cause more severe symptoms, like muscle cramps, says the CDC.

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The majority of spider bites are from nonvenomous spiders, so the best first aid is to clean the area with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment, Weber recommended. Mark the date on your calendar, Weber advised, and keep your eye on how the bite progresses for any signs of infection.

Nonvenomous spider bites don't typically require medical treatment, but if you're worried, you can call your local poison control center "to put your mind at ease," Weber added. (You can contact the national Poison Help Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.)

Then, remember the acronym RICE, Rick Vetter, a world-renowned expert on spider envenomation and a retired research associate at the University of California Riverside, advised. It stands for rest, ice (to reduce pain and swelling, usually with cold compresses), compression, and elevation (of your arm or leg, if that's where you were bitten).

The American Family Physician review said that over-the-counter pain relievers may help with pain from your spider bite, and antihistamines can ease swelling or itchiness.

Call a healthcare provider or go to an emergency room if the bite area looks infected (warm to the touch or exuding pus) or if you have more severe symptoms. You have a window of several hours to get medical help, even if you've been bitten by a black widow or brown recluse spider. "You always have time," Weber said.

"Symptoms can begin anywhere from one to three hours and can intensify over several hours to a whole day," Weber added.

Still, it's OK to be on your toes about spider bites. Here, six different types of spiders that can (and may!) bite you, what those bites might look like, and what you can do for treatment.

03 of 08

Jumping Spider

Macro Photographs Reveals Hypnotic Gaze Of Four-Eyed Jumping Spiders
Barcroft Media/Getty Images

Most everyday spiders are not venomous, and that includes the jumping spider. It's one of the most common household spiders and is found all over North America.

"Jumping spiders have good vision and some have an attitude, and if they see a finger they may bite, but I can't say it has any effect," Vetter said. Jumping spiders bite, but they usually cause itching and little else.

Vetter added, "jumping spider bites resolve in a couple of hours."

04 of 08

Wolf Spider

Wolf spider bites
jennifer m. ramos/Getty Images

Very similar to the jumping spider, wolf spiders are common and found all over the U.S. They're also not harmful, though you may have a red bump along with a little pain and itching.

"If they bite, it will hurt because of the fang penetration, but in North America, there's no known wolf spider that can cause you to go to the doctor," Vetter said.

Benadryl or oral antihistamines can help with the itching, Weber advised.

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Brown Recluse Spider

Suzanne L Collins/Getty Images

The brown recluse is one of two dangerous spiders in the U.S. Recluse spiders are found in some parts of the Midwest but more in southern states: Missouri, Tennessee, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

"Ninety percent of recluse bites, at least in North America, just involve inflammation and nothing more," Vetter said. "Ten percent can take a long time to heal," Vetter added.

A classic sign of a brown recluse bite is a sunken area where the bite took place. "If you truly have a brown recluse bite, it's going to be a small vesicle [blister], and it's going to sink down," Weber explained. "It doesn't get puffed up like a normal bump. It sinks down in the middle," Weber added.

That's because the venom destroys the network of capillaries around the bite, causing the skin to start dying.

Brown recluse bites may also leave a bull's-eye mark with a blue center surrounded by a ring of white and a ring of red. Some people have nausea and vomiting, a rash over their body, fever, chills, and joint stiffness anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after the bite occurs.

Apply ice to the bite and make your way to a healthcare provider or the ER, where you may be given antibiotics. If your urine turns orange or cola colored, it's cause for immediate concern, Weber warned. "This happens when the venom is breaking down red blood cells," Weber explained.

06 of 08

Black Widow Spider

Black Widow Spider On Plant bites
Michael Hollestelle / EyeEm/Getty Images

Known for their black bodies with red hourglass markings, black widow spiders are the second of the two dangerous spiders in the U.S.

There are two primary species in the U.S., according to StatPearls: the southern black widow spider and the western black widow spider. The southern species is found in the southern U.S. (including in Ohio and Maryland), while the western species ranges all across western half of the U.S., from Mexico to Canada.

Their bites can be harmful, but "most of the time people say it feels like a bad case of the flu and they ride it out," Vetter said.

In other cases, pain from a black widow spider bite can become so intense, people have mistaken it for appendicitis or a heart attack. "They get super-severe muscle cramping and pain that radiates from the bite site and up the limb," Weber said. "[Other] symptoms we look for are sweating. It could either be the whole body or part of a limb, like the shin," Weber added.

Once again, apply ice or a cool compress and seek medical attention. A healthcare provider may recommend an antivenom for a black widow bite if your symptoms are severe.

07 of 08

Hobo Spider

Spider Male Hobo or Eratigena agrestis
Alexlky/Getty Images

Hobo spiders, which are concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, get a bad rap for being "aggressive house spiders," but you have to really push one to get it to bite you.

"They have an unearned reputation as being dangerous," said Jerome S. Rovner, PhD, professor emeritus of biological sciences at Ohio University.

More than half of hobo spider bites are "dry," meaning they don't inject any venom (which is better reserved to kill food). Bites that actually involve venom may produce some itching and small lesions, Weber said.

08 of 08

Camel Spider

Wild black camel spider hunting at night
Kristian Bell/Getty Images

Despite its name, a camel spider is actually not a spider at all. It has no venom glands, and it can't spin webs. The critters earned the misnomer from U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. These insects are arachnids (as are spiders, mites, and ticks) and are known as wind scorpions in the U.S., explained Rovner.

"They are nonvenomous but can defensively inflict an incision-like wound with their jaws if trapped against your skin," Rovner said. "The species in the U.S., all of which occur in the western part of the country, are small and harmless," Rovner added.

A Quick Review

Many bite marks on the skin are mistakenly attributed to spiders when actually another culprit is involved. Still, spiders can (and do) bite, which can leave a tiny painful and itchy bump. If you know you've been bitten by a spider, try to catch it or snap a picture of it without getting bit again. This will allow experts to identify the spider and provide treatment accordingly.

Most spiders in the U.S. are nonvenomous. The two venomous spiders in the U.S. are brown recluse and black widow spiders. Their venom can cause more pain than other spider bites and flu-like symptoms. And the symptoms usually go away on their own, but may take some time.

Symptoms can appear within hours of the bite. If you are bitten, clean the area with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment, and then remember to RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). If your symptoms are severe, including signs of infection, swelling of the face, or trouble breathing, get medical treatment right away and, if you were able to identify the spider, let your healthcare provider know which six-legged critter it was.

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