Children's Hospital Colorado

Spider Bite

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • Bite from a spider

Symptoms of a Spider Bite

  • Most spider bites cause local pain, redness and swelling. It's much like a bee sting reaction.
  • A few spiders (such as the Black Widow) can cause a more severe reaction.
  • Helpful if spider seen on the skin or around the child

Cause of Spider Bite Reactions

  • Most spiders have tiny fangs. They inject venom into the skin.
  • The venom is what causes all the symptoms.

Types of Spider Bites

Black Widow Spider Bite

  • A shiny, jet-black spider with long legs (total size 1 inch or 25 mm).
  • A red (or orange) hourglass-shaped marking on its under-side.
  • Causes immediate local pain and swelling.
  • Sometimes, you can see 2 fang marks at the bite site.
  • Severe muscle cramps (especially stomach cramps) occur within 1 to 6 hours. These last 24 to 48 hours.
  • Rarely causes death. (Exception: bitten by several spiders or small child is bitten)
  • Note: Many are dry bites because the fangs are small.
  • The brown widow spider is related to the black widow. It is found in southern US.
  • Brown widow spider bites are treated the same as black widow bites.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite

  • A brown spider with long legs (total size ½ inch or 12 mm).
  • A dark violin shaped marking on top of its head.
  • Causes pain at the bite. Blisters form within 4 to 8 hours.
  • The center becomes bluish and depressed (crater-like) over 2 to 3 days.
  • Skin damage may require skin grafting in 10% of cases.
  • Other symptoms such as fever, vomiting, muscle pain can occur. No life-threatening symptoms occur.
  • Brown recluse spiders are hard to identify. If you can, bring the spider along in a jar.

Non-dangerous Spider Bites

  • More than 50 spiders in the U.S. have venom. Their bites cause reactions that are not serious. This includes pain or redness at the bite site.
  • The bites are painful and swollen. This lasts for 1 or 2 days. They can feel and look like a bee sting.
  • Some single, unexplained, tender bites that occur during the night are due to spiders.

Call 911 Now

  • Trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Passed out or too weak to stand
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Go to ER Now

  • Black or brown widow spider bite suspected
  • Stomach pain, chest tightness or other muscle cramps
  • Bite pain is severe and not improved after using care advice

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Fever and bite looks infected (spreading redness)
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • New redness starts more than 24 hours after the bite. (Note: Any redness in the first 24 hours is due to venom)
  • Over 48 hours since the bite and redness now becoming larger
  • Bite starts to look bad (such as skin damage, blister or purple color)
  • Bite pain lasts more than 2 days
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Non-serious spider bite

Care Advice for Non-dangerous Spider Bites

  1. What You Should Know About Spider Bites:
    • Most spider bites look and feel like a bee sting.
    • The main symptoms are pain and redness.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Clean the Bite:
    • Wash the bite well with soap and water.
  3. Cold Pack for Pain:
    • For pain or swelling, use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
    • Put it on the bite for 20 minutes.
  4. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Use as needed.
  5. What to Expect:
    • The swelling and pain lasts for 1 to 2 days.
    • It should not be any worse than a bee sting.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Severe bite pain lasts more than 2 hours after pain medicine
    • Stomach pains or muscle cramps occur
    • Bite pain lasts more than 2 days (48 hours)
    • Bite starts to look infected
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Care Advice for Non-dangerous Spider Bites

Black Widow Spider

This is a photo of the Black Widow spider.

  • The black widow is shiny and black, with long legs (total width 1 inch).
  • A red (or orange) hourglass-shaped marking may be on its underside. However, this marking is not present in all spiders of this species.
Brown Recluse Spider

This is a photo of the Brown Recluse Spider.

  • It is a brown spider with long legs (total width 1/2 inch).
  • A characteristic violin-shaped marking is visible on back.

Disclaimer

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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