Treatment

For most people with spider bites, including black widow and brown recluse spider bites, the following treatment measures are all that's required:

  • Clean the bite with mild soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment if you think the bite was caused by a brown recluse spider.
  • Apply a cool compress to the bite. This helps reduce pain and swelling.
  • If the bite is on an arm or leg, elevate it.
  • Take over-the-counter medications as needed. You might try a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), or an antihistamine (Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton, others).
  • Observe the bite for signs of infection.

Your doctor may also recommend a tetanus booster shot if you haven't had one in the last five years. You may need antibiotics if the bite becomes infected.

Black widow antivenom

If a black widow bite is causing severe pain or life-threatening symptoms, your doctor may recommend an antivenom, which may be injected into a thigh muscle or given through a vein (intravenously). Antivenom can cause serious allergic reactions, so it must be used with caution.

May 14, 2016
References
  1. Vetter RS, et al. Approach to the patient with a suspected spider bite: An overview. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  2. Habif TP. Infestations and bites. In: Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Edinburgh, U.K.; New York, N.Y.: Mosby Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  3. Spider bites. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/SearchResults?query=spider+bites. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  4. Venomous spiders. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/spiders. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  5. Vetter RS, et al. Management of widow spider bites. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  6. Vetter RS, et al. Bites of recluse spiders. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  7. Brown recluse spider. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/brown_recluse_spider.pdf. Accessed March 8, 2016.
  8. Diaz JH, et al. Common spider bites. American Family Physician. 2007;75:869.
  9. Claypool DW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Nov. 24, 2014.
  10. Juckett G. Arthropod bites. American Family Physician. 2013;88:841.
  11. Black widow spider. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. http:www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/black_widow_spider.pdf. Accessed March 23, 2016.