Experts Warn Of Dangerous Spider Bites This Summer

Now that summer is in full swing, experts say to be on the lookout for some unwelcome visitors. 

Creighton University entomologist Dr. Theodore Burk says there are two dangerous spiders you should stay away from this summer, the Brown Recluse and Western Black Widow. 

The Western Black Widow has a black, shiny appearance with a red hourglass shape on its bottom abdomen and can grow to be about the size of a penny. The Brown Recluse can be identified by a dark, violin shape on the top of its body, behind its head and can get as big as a quarter. 

Dr. Burk says the Brown Recluse and Black Widow are not aggressive but can strike if threatened. "Both of these spiders can and will bite if disturbed."

Burk says both spiders' bites can have severe consequences. "Black Widows produce a neurotoxin, so you can get a local reaction, some little skin death and swelling. It's a nerve poison and it's much more dangerous to children because they're just smaller and the dose is just correspondingly worse. The Brown Recluse it's a necrotic poison that actually destroys the tissue and so you get a very ugly, kind of raw ulcerous area around the bite. It can get very infected with staphylococcus."

Burk says typically the spiders make their homes outdoors, but they can get inside your home."They both occur outside, in places like wood piles or under stones or in shrubs, things like that. Probably most people encounter them in their houses, their garages, their basements. Where they've come inside, they've built their webs around something that's been laying around in your garage for a couple years that you haven't moved or a pile of stuff over in the corner of your basement."

Burk offers a few tips to avoid the spiders and what to do if you are bitten. 

  • Wear gloves when working in the garden or around brush or wood piles, as spiders favor dark, secluded areas. 
  • Sweep around boxes or objects that haven’t been moved for a while in basement or garage areas.
  • Wear shoes that cover the entire foot when in grassy areas.
  • Do not swat at or try to capture either spider, as doing that may trigger a defensive bite reaction.
  • Shake clothing out after working outdoors, as spiders have been known to hide inside clothing. 
  • Avoid scratching the bite site, as it could become infected with staphylococcus.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if the bite feels hot, develops significant blistering or the skin becomes discolored. Spider bites also can cause significant rash areas around the entire body. 

Burk says in rare cases symptoms like fever, nausea, vomiting and headache may accompany a bite.

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