Arachnidism is a type of injury due to spider bites. Spider bites on kids may lead to redness and itching sensation around the bite area. The bites of certain spiders, such as a black widow spider or a brown recluse spider, require prompt medical care.
Some spider bites, such as those of brown recluse spiders, may cause skin necrosis, which may become severe enough to warrant skin grafting. The bite of the black widow spider is known to affect the central nervous system. Despite the availability of antivenoms, their use is not considered safe in children due to higher risks of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).
Read on to learn about the types of biting spiders, symptoms, risk factors, complications, treatments, and prevention of spider bites in children.
Types Of Spiders
Most spiders are poisonous, but fangs of most spiders are too short or fragile to penetrate the human skin. Although there are many species of spiders, the following two species of spiders can cause severe bite injuries (1).
- Black widow spider
A black widow spider is a jet-black, shiny spider with red or orange hourglass-shaped marks on its abdomen. It is also characterized by its approximately one-inch (2.5mm) long legs. The brown widow spider, found in the southern US, is related to the black widow spider, but is much less dangerous.
- Brown recluse spider
Brown recluse spiders are also called violin spiders, reapers, fiddle-backs, and brown spiders. Their legs measure approximately half an inch (12mm) long, and they have a dark violin-shaped mark on their heads. Brown recluse spiders do not usually bite unless they are trapped.
Outside of bites from black widow and brown recluse spiders, most spider bites do not lead to severe reactions. It’s important to be able to differentiate dangerous spiders from non-dangerous spiders to know whether or not you need to seek medical treatment after getting bit.
Symptoms Of Spider Bites
- Black widow spider bite
Black widow bites may cause the following symptoms:
- Immediate localized swelling and pain on/and around the bite site
- Two fang marks are visible on the bite site in most cases
- Stomach cramps and muscle cramps can occur within one to six hours after a bite and often lasting between 24 and 48 hours
- Itching, swelling of the eyelids, dizziness, sweating, nausea, vomiting and other systemic symptoms may be seen in some children after getting bit
- Neurologic symptoms include headaches, anxiety, and restlessness
Some spiders may “dry bite” (without venom) if their fangs are small. Death from black widow spider bites is rare but may occur if a child is bitten by several spiders or if the affected child is very young.
- Brown recluse spider bite
Brown recluse spider bites may cause the following symptoms:
- Pain and itching at the bite site
- Blisters appear on the bite site within four to eight hours
- Fever, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting may occur in some children
Although brown recluse spider bites do not cause any life-threatening issues, skin grafting may be needed in 10% of cases.
- Non-dangerous spider bites
Non-dangerous spider bites may not cause severe symptoms. Most unexplained, tender bites at night can be from non-dangerous spiders. Common symptoms of non-dangerous spider bites may include the following:
- Pain, redness, and swelling at the bite site.
- Bee sting-like appearance
These symptoms usually last for one or two days.
It is advised to seek medical care if you are not sure about what type of spider has bitten your child. It can also sometimes be confusing for parents to differentiate spider bites from bee stings.
Risk Factors For Spider Bites
Living in areas where spiders live and disturbing their natural habitat (accidentally or knowingly) may increase the risk of spider bites. Brown recluse and black widow spiders are found in dry, warm, and dark places (3).
Black window spiders are commonly seen in garages, sheds, woodpiles, and unused garden equipment and pots. Undisturbed areas are habitats for brown recluses, and thus their name. Dress shelves or clutter of attics or basements are common places where brown recluse spiders are found. Spiders are also commonly found under tree stumps or rocks outdoors.
Complications Of Spider Bites
Skin infections are one of the serious complications of spider bites in children. In rare cases, brown recluse and black widow spider bites can cause children’s to die.
How To Prevent Spider Bites In Children?
Spiders, including the brown recluse and black widow spider, usually bite only when trapped or threatened. The following tips may help prevent spider bites in children:
- Keep garages, woodpiles, and attics free of spider webs.
- Make children wear long sleeves and pants while playing around woodpiles or garages.
- Keep firewood outside the house.
- Use tight-fitting window and door screens to prevent spiders from getting indoors.
- Keep beds away from the wall, avoid dragging bedding on the floor, and do not store items under beds.
If you see a spider on a child’s body, flick it away. Do not crush it since it may increase the risk of biting.
Home Remedies For Spider Bites In Children
The following home remedies are recommended for non-dangerous spider bites (4).
- Clean the bite area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold pack to relieve pain and swelling. You may place a wet cloth or ice packs on the bite site for 20 minutes three to four times per day.
- Pain relievers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) can be given as per pediatricians’ recommendations.
- Elevating the arms or legs if the bite site is in these areas may reduce swelling.
You may observe the bite site for any signs of infection. Seek medical care if the symptoms persist.
Treatments For Spider Bites In Children
Doctors may recommend home care measures for spider bites in most children. They may prescribe pain relievers to reduce pain and often prescribe antibiotic ointments to the affected area to reduce the risk of infection. A tetanus shot is usually given if the vaccine status of the child is not updated.
In some cases, doctors may give antivenom against black widow spider venom. However, it is often avoided due to the possibility of anaphylactic reactions, or severe allergic reactions.
When To Call A Doctor?
You may contact your pediatrician to clarify any concerns and seek home-care advice. Be sure to seek medical care in the following situations:
- You suspect a black widow or brown recluse spider has bitten your child
- Pain lasts more than two hours even after taking OTC pain-relieving medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Muscle cramps, stomach cramps, signs of infection such as fever and spreading redness develop
- Breathing problems and wheezing
- Fast heart rate
- Neurologic symptoms like agitation, headache, or confusion
Spider bites on kids tend to heal without long-term effects. It is essential to follow the correct type of treatment to allow it to heal completely. However, it’s essential to keep an eye out for signs of bacterial infection on the bite site. Home care is recommended for non-dangerous spider bites, but you must seek medical care if symptoms persist or worsen. The usual redness or itching in and around the bite may not require a doctor’s attention. But if you notice these along with nausea, sweating, and dizziness, you must seek help.
- Symptoms of spider bites on children are localized swelling and pain, itching, stomach cramps, muscle cramps, and headache.
- Clean the bite area with soap water, use an ice pack to relieve pain, and use a pain reliever such as Tylenol or ibuprofen (as per a pediatrician’s prescription).
- It can be treated with antibiotic ointments to reduce the risk of infection.
2. Spider Bite; St. Louis Children’s Hospital
3. Spider Bite; St. Clair Health
4. Brown Recluse and Black Widow Spider Bites in Children; University of Rochester Medical Center