Brown Recluse Spider Bite

ExitCare ImageA brown recluse spider may be dark brown to light tan in color. It has a band of darker color shaped like a violin on its back. The whole spider (with legs) may grow to the size of 1 inch (2.5 cm). These spiders live undercover, outdoors, and in out-of-the-way places indoors. They can be found in the U.S. on the East Coast, West Coast, and mostly in the South. Brown recluse spider bites can be serious and life-threatening.


Symptoms can get worse over several days and may include:

  • Pain at the bite site. This may begin as a small, painful blister with redness around it. The pain and sore (lesion) caused by the bite can increase and spread over time. This may result in an area of tissue death up to 12 inches (30 cm) wide.

  • General feeling of illness (malaise).

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Fever.

  • Body aches.


Your caregiver may prescribe a drug to prevent tissue death or to treat your lesion. If a large lesion develops, surgery may be needed to remove the damaged tissue. Certain medicines and antibiotics may be prescribed depending on the severity of your illness. However, there is no single antidote to treat this bite. Treatment focuses on caring for your wound.


  • Do not scratch the bite area. Keep the area clean and covered with an adhesive bandage or sterile gauze bandage.

  • Wash the area daily in warm, soapy water.

  • Put ice or cool compresses on the bite area.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day or as directed.

  • Keep the bite area elevated above the level of your heart. This helps reduce swelling.

  • Take medicines as directed by your caregiver.

You may need a tetanus shot if:

  • You cannot remember when you had your last tetanus shot.

  • You have never had a tetanus shot.

  • The injury broke your skin.

If you get a tetanus shot, your arm may swell, get red, and feel warm to the touch. This is common and not a problem. If you need a tetanus shot and you choose not to have one, there is a rare chance of getting tetanus. Sickness from tetanus can be serious.


  • Your symptoms do not improve in 24 hours or are getting worse.

  • You have increasing pain in the bite area.


  • Your lesion appears to be getting larger (more than ¼ inch [5 mm]), growing deeper, or looks infected.

  • You have chills or a fever.

  • You feel nauseous, vomit, have muscle aches, weakness, extreme tiredness, convulsions, or a red rash.

  • Your urine output decreases.

  • You have blood in your urine or notice other unusual bleeding.

  • Your skin turns yellow.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.