Brown Recluse Spider Bite: Nikki Perez Almost Blinded. Could It Happen Where You Live?

English: The leg of Jeffrey Rowland two months...
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Brown Recluse Spider Bite: Nikki Perez Almost Blinded In Texas.

The gentleman on the right has a more typical bite.

Before every spider becomes a brown recluse, these are very easily identified spiders within a limited area.

You may have heard that global warming may cause the spiders to spread, and that is true, but theoretical.  If you want to plan your life around avoiding the brown recluse, here is a link to the entire climate study.  For the shorthand, avoid the mid-atlantic states.

Currently, brown recluse spider bites are severely over-reported in the endemic areas.  Georgia had 963 bite reports from 103 counties, when the spider has only been documented to exist at all in 31 counties.  So either they go hitch-hiking a great deal, or people are reporting something that wasn’t a brown recluse at all.

The people reporting a brown recluse spider bite when there wasn’t any aren’t simple laymen.  Believe it or not, M.D.s are just as likely to cry wolf.  Here is a documented report of a brown recluse spider bite up in Canada, where the spider has never been documented to live and which would exceed all the estimates of the global warming expansion of their territory.  In the endemic areas, there are dozens of documented brown recluse spiders in individual homes.  These people live their lives without being feasted on by rampaging brown recluses.  The number of spiders actually found in individual homes exceeds the number found in non-endemic bordering states.  But those bordering states report hundreds of brown recluse spider bites.  So evidently either we are getting over-reporting or crossing state lines turns the brown recluse into little Tasmanian devils of viciousness and extraordinary speed.

At this point, I know you’re all salivating for  photos of the brown recluse.  Realize that most patients bitten are shown photos after the fact and “remember” it was a brown recluse.  Many spider bites can become mildly necrotic if they face secondary infection.   And many spiders have dark spots on their bellies that imitate the brown recluse.  So go on google images if you want to see giant, terrifying images of the brown recluse.  Then go to this site and view the brown recluse in relation to a quarter.  You still might want to look at their product, though I suspect any application of a compound like baking soda would help draw out the venom.

So, you’ve been bitten by a spider.  What do you do?  If you’re like most of us you ignore it if it’s you, and you fly into a complete panic if it’s your child.  Try to aim for somewhere in between.  If you can save the spider, try to do so.  Realize that if the wound shows any necrosis, it is likely that the doctors will try to identify whatever it was as a brown recluse anyway.

In terms of whether you should go to a hospital, it isn’t going to be unclear.  Children who are suffering from this sort of spider bite are pretty sick.  (See attached abstract).  The problems are systemic, not simply on the skin.  For those systemic issues, a hospital is where you want to be.

But be very aware that treatment is supportive for these systemic issues.  If all you have is a bug bite, it may not be a brown recluse (especially if you live in Maine during black fly season).  Don’t be taken in by this ER report that an old man had a brown recluse bite because his bug bite had some necrosis.

If it is indeed a brown recluse spider (confirmed by a poison control center somewhere they are endemic) talk to your doctor about the status of anti-venoms.  If they are available, it might be possible to alter the course of a systemic illness in a child.

And finally, the brown recluse got its name because it doesn’t want to hang out with humans.  In a four year period, brown recluse spiders bit about a thousand people in endemic Texas.  These people have houses crawling with dozens of spiders, but only a thousand got bit.  How many died?  When you look at the literature, we have two reports of deaths from brown recluse spider bites.  So don’t stay home if you start swelling, and don’t panic as you drive your child.  Chances are pretty good that you’ll both be fine.  And if you live in Maine, it REALLY isn’t likely to be a brown recluse.  Here’s a yahoo answer that sums it up well.


Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2011 Mar;50(3):252-8.

Complications and outcomes of brown recluse spider bites in children.


Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72202, USA.


Brown recluse spider bites may cause severe local and systemic morbidity, but data regarding morbidity in children are limited. This study reviewed inpatient medical records (n = 26; 10 years) with a discharge diagnosis of “spider bite” from a tertiary pediatric hospital. The majority (85%) of children had an inflammatory response accompanying necrosis, usually with signs of secondary cellulitis (77%). Hemolytic anemia (50%), rhabdomyolysis (27%), and acute renal failure (12%) were the most prevalent systemic effects. Hemolytic anemia was bimodal in distribution relative to the time-of-onset of the bite (early, 2.2 ± 0.4; late, 6.9 ± 1.5 days postbite, respectively; P = .004). Although no fatalities occurred in the population, 65% of children had major morbidity, including wound complications requiring surgical care and acute orbital compartment syndrome. The findings emphasize the importance of anticipatory patient/family education for outpatients and careful monitoring for systemic morbidity in inpatients. Timely and appropriate supportive care should yield favorable outcomes in most cases.

PMID: 21307081
Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2007 Sep;45(6):678-87.

Toxicity of two North American Loxosceles (brown recluse spiders) venoms and their neutralization by antivenoms.


Instituto Nacional de Producción de Biológicos A. N. L. I. S. “Dr. Carlos Gregorio Malbrán,” Ministerio de Salud y Ambiente, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


The toxic, biochemical, and immunological characteristics of L. boneti and L. reclusa venoms and its neutralization by anti-L. boneti and anti-L. reclusa antivenoms were studied. The electrophoretic profile showed very similar patterns and the toxic activities were very close. Immunological studies showed cross-reactivity among L. boneti and L. reclusa venoms, with L. boneti and L. reclusa experimental antivenoms, and anti-L. gaucho and anti-L. laeta antivenoms. The venom of L. laeta showed low immunological reactivity with the North American Loxosceles antivenoms. Experimental anti-North American Loxosceles antivenoms protected mice of the systemic toxicity and were able to prevent necrosis in rabbit skin after the injection of the venom. Both antivenoms displayed cross neutralization. The results showed that both Loxosceles venoms have very close toxic, biochemical, and immunological characteristics, and that either monospecific antivenoms or an antivenom raised with L. boneti and L. reclusa venoms as immunogens could be useful for treating bites by North American Loxosceles spiders.

PMID: 17849243



4 Replies to “Brown Recluse Spider Bite: Nikki Perez Almost Blinded. Could It Happen Where You Live?”

  1. I’m going home early to see the doctor. My bite swelled up and it’s kinda painful. If I get it checked tomorrow, it would not be good. I don’t know if the swelling would escalate. I got bit yesterday in the middle of the day. I didn’t see the spider. What the heck man.

    It’s most likely a spider bite. I just found the spider and killed it. If it’s not a spider bite, then it’s an allergic reaction to a bug bite.

    And yeah. It kinda itches, hurts, and my arm feels tingly and numb-ish. And of course, you can’t miss the swelling of my arm. It swelled up overnight. Dang.

    With ointment: (which doesn’t work btw)

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