What Are the Effects If You Are Bitten by a Violin Spider?

Written by anne ackerman
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What Are the Effects If You Are Bitten by a Violin Spider?
Many species of spiders are misidentified as violin spiders. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Violin, fiddleback, or black recluse are the common names of the species Loxosceles recluse. The violin spider has a faint violin-shaped mark on its abdomen and lives in hidden places, preferring to avoid humans. Although it does live in dwellings, it will build nests in secluded areas, such as dark closets, basements, sheds and garages. They are nocturnal spiders and will not bite unless provoked.

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Identifying Violin Spiders

Other non-venomous spiders are often mistaken for violin spiders. If you don't live in an area where violin spiders live, your bite is almost certainly from some other species of spider. Violin spiders are found in the central and lower parts of the Midwest, from Ohio to Iowa and down to the Gulf Coast. They are also found along the U.S. and Mexico border area. Violin spiders' legs extend to about the size of a quarter, while their bodies are less than half an inch long. They are grey, light brown or yellow in colour. In many violin spiders, the violin markings are quite faint. Unlike most spiders, which have four pairs of eyes, violin spiders have three sets of eyes.

Toxicity of Violin Spider Bites

While violin spider venom is toxic to humans, not everyone who is bitten by a violin spider has a reaction to the bite. The effects of the bite depend on how sensitive someone is to the venom and how much venom is injected. Deaths as a result from violin spider bites are rare, but the bite can be painful and take months to heal. Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to severe bite symptoms.

Symptoms of Violin Spider Bites

The first effect of a violin spider bite is a usually a pricking or stinging sensation. Many people don't feel the bite at first. Symptoms generally start appearing within eight hours of the bite. The area around the bite may turn red and a white blister may develop. Skin may feel itchy or burning. A large lesion with a faint blue colour surrounded by redness develops, and the skin around the bite may become hardened. A crust forms over the bite, which can turn black. Some lesions can erupt, leaving a hole in the skin as a result of the skin around the lesion dying.

Other symptoms of a violin spider bite include a general feeling of unwellness, fever, nausea, headaches, stomach or joint pain and muscle cramps. Unfortunately, these are also symptoms of many other illnesses, so it is necessary to see a doctor when these symptoms are present and a spider bite is suspected. Research shows that up to 80 per cent of "spider bites" are attributable to other causes. The only way to be 100 per cent sure you were bitten by a violin spider is to witness the spider biting you and capturing it for identification.

What To Do About Violin Spider Bites

If you are bitten by a violin spider, immediately seek medical advice. The sooner you seek treatment, the less likely the symptoms of the bite will be severe. Try to collect the spider for identification. Wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water. Administer first-aid treatments such as icing the wound to reduce pain and inflammation and applying antibiotic ointment. Cover the bite with a bandage. In cases of a severe reaction, hospitalisation may be necessary. There is no antivenom formula for violin spider bites as of 2011.

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