If you’re planning a camping trip or if you spend countless hours in the wilderness, you should know that there are countless insects which can feel the need to get a taste of your delicious blood, and spiders are among them. That’s why it’s always good to know a thing or two about the spider bites treatment, whether it regards herbal alleviation or medicine.
Apart from the actual treatment input, in this article we’re going to give you an idea of what the most common symptoms are, since you can’t treat something without being sure what it actually is, as well as some prevention measures as a form of treating the bite before it happens.
What Does A Spider Bite Feel Like?
The accurate treatment for spider bites largely depends on recognizing the signs of that sort of bite.
But when you’re looking for the symptoms of a spider bite, you may find yourself facing a real dilemma. That’s basically because you can’t tell them apart from other insect bites – well not unless you have medical training or if you actually see the spider in the process of biting you.
However, the things you’ll most likely feel in case you’ve been bitten by a non-dangerous spider are:
- Burning sensation.
- Numbness of skin.
All those symptoms occur because to some extent all spiders are venomous, even if their venom doesn’t have deadly or dangerous effects in most of the cases. But a spider will need to anesthetize the skin of its victim in order to suck its blood without being noticed.
For this purpose it produces a certain sort of substance which doesn’t let you feel the bite in the process. When that wears off, you’ll be left with all the symptoms mentioned above.
In fact, all symptoms occur because your body actively tries to eliminate the poison, sending blood to irrigate the area. That’s also why you may feel itching there: it’s your body’s way of letting you know that something is wrong. You probably already know that scratching will do you no good, as it will actually help spread the venom further inside your body, so it’s best to refrain from it.
That’s the long and the short of it for non-dangerous spider bites. On the other hand, there are also some pretty harmful spiders out there, generally known as poisonous spiders although all spiders spit some sort of poison into our systems when they bite us. The most common arachnids in this category are the widow spider and the recluse, as well as tarantulas. Do check out our guide on the most venomous spiders to watch out for and avoid.
The symptoms inflicted by the bites of poisonous spiders are:
- Spasms in your muscles.
- Breathing problems.
- Sweating excessively.
- Stomach pain.
- Wound ulceration.
Obviously, these bites shouldn’t be ignored, treated with herbs or left to heal on their own, but you should seek medical attention immediately. All the symptoms above are an indication of how the poison is affecting your body and how your body is trying to get rid of it not only by sending white cells to locally fight the infection, but also by trying to eliminate it through vomit. In the meanwhile, your body is sending you signals that you’re not well, like the excessive sweat.
You should be especially careful if you’re experiencing breathing difficulties, as that may be a sign of anaphylactic shock. You may be one step away from death if you can’t breathe properly, so try to remain calm and call 911 immediately.
If you haven’t experienced an anaphylactic shock already, other signs you should take into account are:
- An intensification of your basic spider bite symptoms: redness, itching and swelling.
- Stomach pain.
- Swelling of your eyes, mouth and throat.
That being said, when you’re not sure whether you’ve been bitten by a poisonous spider or if you’re really going into an anaphylactic shock, it’s best to call your doctor. Better safe than sorry – making an informed diagnosis is smarter than any guess when it comes to proper treatment.
10 Ways to Treat Harmless Spider Bites
These ways of treating spider bites we’re going to talk about will help you in a number of situations: whether you’re out camping or at home, you can learn to take care of your bite with the basic plants you can find in the woods, in your backpack or in the pantry. On the other hand, if you have a First Aid Kit with you as its always recommended, we’ll also let you know what medicine you can use from there and why it works.
Keep in mind that we’re dealing with non-dangerous spider bites here. The treatment of poisonous spider bites generally requires immediate medical attention and not at-home remedies.
Tip: before applying any of these remedies, make sure that you have properly cleaned the bite mark at least with soap and water. It may also be a good idea to disinfect it with hydrogen peroxide from your First Aid Kit.
#1 Cold compress
If your bite mark is red, swollen, burning or itching, applying a cold compress or an ice pack is highly recommended. First of all, it’s not a good idea to scratch the wound, but most of us can’t help it. The coldness of a compress will help deal with that nasty feeling, as well as the burning sensation you may feel due to the accumulation of blood in the bitten area.
The redness and swelling are likewise relieved by a cold compress for the same reasons, because cold can stop the blood from irrigating your bite mark. As a consequence, the swelling will go away in about 30 minutes, and redness with it.
If you’re using an ice pack, keep in mind that you shouldn’t allow direct contact between the ice and your skin. Wrap the ice pack in a towel or a handkerchief to prevent it from touching you directly. Moreover, don’t keep the ice pack for more than 5 minutes at a time on your bite mark, but you can reapply it after 30 minutes or so have passed.
#2 Keeping the bite area elevated
This technique will also help you deal with the most uncomfortable symptoms we’ve tackled in the previous section. Keeping the bite area elevated will stop the blood flow from irrigating the bite mark, thus alleviating itchiness and reducing possible swelling.
On the other hand, the lump you’re noticing on your skin may be in itself filled with some sort of fluid, causing a weal. If you don’t hold your bite area elevated, the blood flow may actually take the local “poison” found in your lump, and carry it across your circulatory system, making you experience other possible symptoms.
#3 Baking soda and water
Baking soda is one of the best treatments not only for spider bites, but also for other insect bites you may end up with in the wilderness. The reason is that baking soda is an alkaline substance, which counteracts the effects of base or acidic substances, like some spider bites are. On the plus side, baking soda has multiple recognized disinfectant properties even by the medical community, being used in a water mix to treat different afflictions.
As a consequence, its effects on treating spider bites are beneficial in regards to reducing the swelling, itchiness and pain associated. That’s because inflammation and itchiness are the first signs of infection, while pain denotes a more serious infection, effectively counteracted by the disinfectant characteristics of baking soda.
The baking soda and water mix is concocted by following these steps:
- Put 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass containing 3 tablespoons of water.
- Apply the mixture on your skin, by using a cotton ball.
- After 5 minutes, wash your bite mark with warm water.
- Repeat in a couple of hours if your symptoms don’t alleviate.
#4 Crushed aspirin and water
Aspirin has recognized properties when it comes to more serious symptoms of spider bites, like pain and fever. As such, aspirin has been known to reduce pain for a very long time, even if it’s not as good as ibuprofen when ingested, since it can lead to stomach cramps. However, simply applying it on your skin will not cause stomach pain, but effectively deal with your local painful bite mark.
When it comes to counteracting fever, the medical community has been using aspirin on adults for quite some time. That’s because aspirin inhibits COX, an enzyme which fights the substances called prostanoids that trigger inflammation, vasoconstriction and inflammatory responses in our bodies leading to fever.
As a consequence, aspirin is also an ace when it comes to dealing with inflammation caused by spider bites pretty fast.
The mixture we’re talking about can be obtained by:
- Crushing an aspirin tablet into a cup or a bowl.
- Slowly adding water, no more than half a teaspoon at once in order to create a pasty mixture.
- Placing the mixture on your spider bite and letting it dry out.
- Enjoying the effects in one hour tops.
Salt has been used for thousands of years thanks to its antiseptic properties. As such, using salt as a form of first aid isn’t solely an old wives’ tale, but a solution employed throughout the years including in modern medicine.
That being said, salt works thanks to a process called osmosis. In laymen terms, salt will absorb the moisture from the inflamed cells that cause your bite mark to swell. Once it draws out the fluids that make the cells in your skin swell, the venom inflicted by the spider will also be absorbed and eliminated from your body.
That’s a really good thing to remember for other bites and wounds too – the expression “putting salt on the wound” literally means the opposite of what’s intended. So, simply add a tablespoon of salt into 3 tablespoons of water, dab a cotton ball in this mixture and apply it on your skin for a few minutes, until you feel the relief.
If the symptoms aren’t completely gone, repeat the process later.
#6 Activated charcoal
Another great way to say goodbye to the nasty effects of spider bites is by applying activated charcoal on them. That’s because activated charcoal also employs the process of osmosis to your advantage thanks to its absorption abilities.
The toxic substances inflicted through the spider mark are sucked out of your body along with the water in your cells, making the swelling and the itchiness go away.
Activated charcoal is not only used for spider bites, but for drawing out a number of different poisons and venoms too, including those that come from snakes. Even the most dangerous spider bites like that from the recluse spider can successfully be treated with activated charcoal.
For this purpose, you’ll need to make a compress or a poultice from activated charcoal, and if you suspect you’ve been bitten by a brown recluse spider, don’t hesitate to apply it on your skin immediately.
The compress should be changed frequently during the first eight hours after you have been bitten, at half hour intervals. After that, the compress should be changed every two hours, but you should really seek medical assistance in the meantime.
#7 Aloe Vera gel
Applying an Aloe Vera gel on your bite mark has amazing benefits. If you don’t have this wondrous gel in your backpack, you may still find some aloe leaves in their natural habitat.
Crush them to make a paste and then apply that on your skin to see immediate results because of:
- Vitamins A, C, and E contained in the Aloe Vera. These are natural antioxidants, which help eliminate the spider venom, reducing inflammation and redness.
- An enzyme called Bradykinase found in the Aloe Vera that reduces swelling.
- Minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium and selenium that have amazing metabolic and antioxidant properties, aiding with the healing process.
- Sugars like the glycoprotein called alprogen that effectively combats allergic reactions and the C-glucosyl chromone which is another good anti-inflammatory substance.
- Fatty acids like lupeol which reduces inflammation, also acting as a disinfectant and analgesic.
- Hormones like auxins that help the healing process and are great anti-inflammatories.
#8 Dried, crushed basil
Basil is another amazing natural disinfectant which you may have in your pantry or in your backpack if you’re a cooking aficionado who can’t imagine a camping trip without a delicious meal. Being an antiseptic, it’s easily understandable why it can be used for treating minor spider bites too.
As it happens, it can reduce inflammation and pain because it extracts the moisture along with the spider venom from your bite, provided you’re using dry basil.
To make this natural remedy from basil, you will need to:
- Make a powder out of crushed basil by rubbing it forcefully with your fingers.
- Put this powder on your bite mark, scrubbing your skin with it.
- Repeat every day until the symptoms have gone away.
#9 Ground turmeric and olive oil
Turmeric is another cooking herb you may have in your kitchen or among your food supplies. The paste we’re going to show you how to prepare from turmeric and olive oil can be successfully replaced with mustard if you don’t have these ingredients in your backpack, because mustard also contains some turmeric.
This plant is known for its anti-inflammatory effects and wound treating abilities, being a renown antioxidant. As such, it destroys free radicals – the molecules in the spider venom responsible for causing the death of your cells. When it comes to its ability to reduce swelling, that is explained by its ability to stop the accumulation of platelets – enzymes that trigger blood clots and inflammation.
For all these reasons, turmeric can treat the swelling and redness caused by spider bites in a mixture made like this:
- Put 1 teaspoon of turmeric in a mug.
- Mix olive oil with the turmeric, but no more than a couple of drops at once, until you have obtained a paste.
- Place this paste on your bite mark.
Yes, potatoes are amazing with spider bites for a number of interesting reasons.
In fact, these vegetables have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years too, thanks to their many curative abilities that can also be employed in spider bites, like:
- Combating the acidic or base spider bites thanks to substances called tannins in the potatoes and to various alkaloids it has.
- Treating inflammation thanks to its absorption properties.
- Treating pain associated with spider bites, because they can retain heat that penetrates the deeper tissues.
- Treating itchiness and burning sensations caused by spider bites because potatoes can also retain cold.
- Removing unhealthy or damaged cells in the aftermath of a spider bite thanks to its enzymes and vitamin C.
Simply place a slice of an uncooked potato on your spider mark, secure it with a bandage and let it act for half an hour.
Drugs Used for Treating Spider Bites
Before letting you know what the most common medicine used for spider bites are, make sure your First Aid Kit is up to date and that you thoroughly read the prospect before using any of these drugs.
- Hydrocortisone cream. Hydrocortisone is a mild corticosteroid, therefore it can reduce inflammation, redness and itchiness caused by spider bites. Apply topically on your skin.
- Calamine lotion. You can reduce itching, pain, and discomfort with calamine lotion, another external treatment for spider or insect bites made from a mixture of zinc and ferric oxide.
- Ibuprofen. Ibuprofen can be both ingested or applied topically on your spider bite. This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and therefore reduces swelling and redness. However, it can also deal with more serious spider bite symptoms such as pain and fever when used internally.
- Acetaminophen. Also known as Paracetamol, Acetaminophen is a drug that can help with mild pain and fever cases, making sure you don’t develop any complications from your spider bite.
- Antihistamines. Antihistamines are used for treating allergic reactions. If you get such a reaction after a spider bite, you may experience some of the symptoms we’ve talked about earlier, such as rashes, itchiness and swelling of your face/ mouth.
In these cases, taking some Benadryl may alleviate these symptoms.
An injection of epinephrine may also be recommended.
Preventing Spider Bites
Prevention is the best treatment, so here’s how you can stay safe from spider bites when you’re in the great outdoors, especially during warm weather:
- Wear gloves, shirts with long sleeves and tuck your pants into your socks when performing outdoor activities such as clearing brush and gathering firewood.
- Use insect repellants to spray your clothes with when you’re in an area with a lot of spiders. Our piece on the best insect repellents to use will help you prevent those nasty bites.
- Insulate your tent or sleeping area. Check for spiders before going to sleep.
- Keep your tent clean and dry.
- Remove spider webs carefully when you see them.
- Stay away from dark, humid spaces where spiders may hide, like rocks or wood piles.
What Should You Remember?
The first thing you should remember is that when you want to treat minor spider bites with herbs and plants, you should look for the ones that have anti-inflammatory properties as well as absorption abilities.
Drugs should only be used with extreme care and precaution. Although the medicine in your First Aid Kit is off the counter drugs, you should still carefully read the indications and side effects. If you’ve been bitten by a poisonous spider, try to get to a doctor as soon as possible.
Another matter to consider is there are other things that look like spider bites, and getting misdiagnosed is a danger in itself. That’s because the plants (poison ivy) or viruses (MRSA) which cause your symptoms may be more deadly than the mere spider bite you presume you have. To find out how to give first aid treatments in the wilds, check out our must-read article on this subject.
Some of them may even be contagious, so it’s better to not just assume you’ve been bitten by a spider or an insect. In fact, there might not even be poisonous spiders in your area, so it’s a good idea not to tell your doctor that you’ve been bitten by a spider, but to show him your symptoms and let them decide what they could be caused by.