Spiders want to avoid people as much as we want to avoid them, but when they feel threatened, spiders will bite.
This can happen if you:
- surprise or startle a spider
- roll over on one in bed
- step on a spider
- swipe your hand in a spider’s direction
In many cases, spider bites can be treated at home. Although every spider species injects venom through their fangs to paralyze their prey, most spider venom isn’t strong enough to act as a toxin in humans.
Some spider venom is toxic to people, however, and can definitely be dangerous. In the United States, recluse and widow spiders pose the greatest threat.
SIGNS OF AN EMERGENCY
If you’re bitten by a venomous spider and go into shock or are having trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.
If you’re bitten by a species of spider with less toxic venom, home remedies for spider bites can minimize pain and discomfort, and speed up healing.
For more severe spider bite reactions, you can use these same remedies after you’ve been medically treated.
Be sure to talk with a doctor first.
Treatment for a nonvenomous spider bite
While these spiders may have venom that they use to attack their prey, the venom poses little to no risks to humans.
Bites from the following spiders are unlikely to cause more than minor irritation, unless you’re allergic:
- brown widow spider (found in the Southern and Western United States)
- cellar spider (daddy longlegs) (United States and Canada)
- funnel web weaver spider (grass spider) (United States and Canada)
- hobo spider (Pacific Northwestern United States)
- huntsman spider (found primarily in warmer states)
- jumping spider (California, Florida, Texas, and Canada)
- orb weaving spider (United States and Canada)
- red-legged widow spider (Florida)
- tarantula (Southern and Southwestern United States)
- wolf spider (all of North America)
- yellow sac spider (all of North America)
When you discover a mild spider bite, first wash the area with soap and water to clear away any venom, dirt, or bacteria that could enter your bloodstream through the puncture wound.
You may find a cold compress or an ice pack soothing and can apply a bandage to protect the wound. Before covering the bite, consider using an over-the-counter (OTC) medicated cream, such as:
- antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream to help with itching
- triple antibiotic ointment to discourage infection or if you’re blistering
- analgesic cream to help reduce pain
Creams and ointments to try
Creams and ointments may help soothe the pain caused by nonvenomous spiders. Shop for them online:
If OTC creams and ointments don’t do the trick, or you want to help speed your healing, there are some natural home remedies for spider bites that may work.
Aloe vera gel can soothe skin and help it heal faster. Essential oils may help with both pain and healing when diffused, inhaled, or applied to the skin with a carrier oil.
- Lavender oil may help to reduce pain, according to a 2015 study.
- Rose oil may help to reduce pain, according to a
2017 literature review.
- Bergamot works against nerve pain in mice, according to a
- Chamomile can help to reduce skin inflammation and irritation, according to a
2010 literature review.
Natural remedies to try
Natural remedies, such as essential oils, may also help provide relief from irritation and other symptoms. Shop for them online:
Treatment for a venomous spider bite
If you believe you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider, don’t delay getting medical care. Call a doctor instead.
- brown recluse spider (Midwestern and Southern United States)
- black widow spider (Southern and Western United States)
The most common potentially harmful spiders outside of the United States include the:
- Brazilian wandering spider (South America and Central America)
- funnel-web spider (Australia)
- redback spider (Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Japan)
The female redback spider is dangerous, but a bite from a male redback spider is relatively harmless.
If you’re bitten by a spider whose venom you suspect is toxic to people, it’s important that you see a doctor as soon as you can. Although many people get spider bites without developing severe reactions, if a complication does arise, it can be serious.
Even if you have a milder bite from a nonvenomous spider, it’s important to see a doctor if you experience an allergic reaction, especially if you have trouble breathing or swallowing, or experience heart palpitations.
Also seek medical attention if any of your symptoms seem extreme, if your symptoms are getting worse instead of better, or if the spider bite has become infected.
The following are some of the treatments you might expect to receive, depending on:
- which spider bit you
- the severity of the bite
- the amount of time that’s passed between bite and treatment
Treatments that may help if you’re bitten by a venomous spider include:
- antivenom, to neutralize venom
- antibiotics, to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections
- dapsone (Aczone) or other antibiotics, to fight bacteria from a brown recluse spider
Treatments to help relieve pain and inflammation include:
- topical or narcotic pain relievers, to help with pain and muscle spasms
- diphenhydramine (Benadryl), to help relieve itching or allergic reactions
- colchicine (Colcrys, Mitagare), to help reduce swelling and pain
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or aspirin, to help reduce inflammation and pain
- corticosteroids, to help reduce inflammation
However, injecting corticosteroids into the spider bite or using a corticosteroid cream isn’t recommended and may make injuries worse.
Other treatments include:
- hyperbaric oxygen therapy, to help speed up wound healing
- nitroglycerin, to treat heart symptoms
It may take 30 minutes to 2 hours or longer before you feel any effects from a spider bite, so if you know you’ve been bitten, pay attention to symptoms. Less serious spider bites may cause the following symptoms:
- a pair of tiny puncture wounds
- nodules, lumps, or swelling
- red welts, rash, or redness
- pain, itching, or numbness
More serious spider bites may include any or all of the above symptoms, as well as:
- a red or purple ring resembling a target or bull’s-eye around the bite
- muscle cramps
- sweating, fever, or chills
- difficulty breathing
- nausea or vomiting
- anxiety or restlessness
- swollen lymph nodes
- high blood pressure
- unsteady balance or poor coordination
- visual or hearing disturbances
- muscle spasms
Call 911 or your local emergency services if you experience any of these more serious symptoms.
Chances are, you would rather avoid a spider bite altogether than have to treat one. There are definitely some precautions you can take that may help you do just that.
11 tips for avoiding spiders
- Maintain a clutter-free environment.
- Avoid stacking wood and separate it carefully if you do.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, and covered shoes in areas where spiders can hide.
- Make a habit of wearing shoes or slippers.
- Shake out clothing, blankets, and shoes before you use them.
- Check crevices, boxes, and containers before sticking your hand in them.
- Use tightly sealed plastic bags to store tools and other items.
- Be cautious and aware around stone walls.
- Seal entries in walls and the floor.
- Use insecticides or peppermint oil around nooks and crannies.
- Spray peppermint oil in a carrier oil in shoes, on clothes, and across bedding.
Spiders usually prey on insects, not humans. However, they’ll bite if they feel threatened, even if you don’t realize that you’ve done anything to scare them.
Before you try to treat spider bites yourself, it’s important to know whether you were bitten by a venomous spider, as well as the risks.
If the bite is mild, there are many OTC and natural treatments that may be beneficial. If you were bitten by a more dangerous spider, or you’re unsure what bit you, call a doctor to make sure you get care.