Brown Recluse Spider Bite & 3 Diagnostic Methods

A short guide on a brown recluse spider bite1Insect bites often pave the way to several infections and diseases. Some are mild, while others may be quite fatal.

So, being cautious and seeking early treatment remains the best option to minimize the adverse effect of insect bites. Although insects are tiny, their venomous sting is fatal enough to kill any individual.

Today, in this article we are going to talk about one such insect bite, the brown recluse spider bite.

1. Characteristics of Brown Recluse Spider

Most spiders are harmless to humans. Among all the spider groups found in America, which approximates 20,000, only 60 of them can bite humans, and only 4 of them are venomous spiders. The dangerous gang comprises:

  • The brown recluse
  • The black widow
  • The Hobo or aggressive house spider
  • The yellow sac spider

Within this gang, the bite of brown recluse and black widow is fatal, and the spider’s venom is fatal enough to seriously ill an individual.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite Story 🕷 They Nearly Lost Their Leg!

1.1. Body Features

  • Brown recluse spiders are about 1.3 cm long and have a violin-shaped mark in their cephalothorax.
  • While most of the other spiders have eight eyes, the brown recluse spider has 6 eyes in three pairs, one in the front part of the head while the rest two pairs lie around the head.
  • The abdomen region is furry and made up of solid color.
  • The legs are solid and lack spines.

1.2. Life Span

They are blessed with a long life span of almost about 5-7 years. They can survive even without food and water for many months. This feature makes them unique.

1.3. Food Habit

Like all other spiders, they spin webs but do not feed on the trapped prey. They use the web as their shelter. They feed on various bugs like ants, cockroaches, and crickets.

1.4. Location

Brown recluse spiders are primarily found in the south-central regions of the United States, including states like Texas, Indiana, Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi.

Most of the time, these spiders prefer warm indoor environments like insulation, cardboard boxes, or in between newspaper pages.

We can find them under rocks or dead barks of trees in outdoors. The tiny silent monster may slide into one’s shoes or bedding and may bite one also!

2. Brown Recluse Spider Bites are Dangerous

All recluse spiders belong to the genus Loxosceles.2 The bite is very venomous as it is responsible for Loxoscelism. Loxoscelism3 means necrotic arachnids4, which means tissue death from a spider bite.

The Truth about the Brown Recluse

Most brown recluse bites are generally more dangerous than the fangs of a rattlesnake. But in the case of spider bites, the amount of injected venom is much less, and thus the complications are less severe.

The venom from the bite of the brown recluse spider is a collection of several enzymes. These enzymes act on the skin’s surface and cause little tissue destruction, causing the breakdown of fat, blood vessels, and other layers of skin and thus disrupting the entire coordination of the entire area.

The venom can also elicit the immune system. As a result, the body releases various chemicals like histamines, interleukins, and cytokines that promote the phagocytic activity of white blood cells in the infected area.

Sometimes the immune movement of the body5 may become over aggressive as a result of which the following complications may arise:

  • Low red blood cells count
  • Low platelet count
  • Faulty blood clotting
  • Kidney failure
  • Coma
  • Death

brown recluse spider bites - a patient education video

These are the most severe symptoms. Although some complications can be seen in children and adults, the consequences are not severe. Death from recluse spider bites is often quite rare.

3. Symptoms of Brown Recluse Spider Bites

As the brown recluse spider has painless bites, most of the time, initially, they go unrecognized. With time gradually, the symptoms become more prominent.

The bite area may become mildly red, and rashes, swelling, and other skin issues may arise. The more severe symptoms may be developed in a few days.

Initial Symptoms of brown recluse bite:

  • Redness
  • Formation of small white blister
  • Deep sore or ulcer
  • Itching
  • Purple or bluish patch
  • Minor burning sensation

‘The Voice’ Contestant Faces Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Some individuals may also develop necrotic lessons. These symptoms generally become prominent within the first 4 hours of the brown recluse bite.

As time rolls, more severe symptoms may appear in some instances. The bitten area may become dark, and seeking medical care will be the best pathway.

After 3-5 days, in most cases where the amount of injected venom is less, and they do not have any significant health issues, the symptoms gradually lessen, and the bitten individual starts to recover. But in some cases, the venom may spread and necrotize the tissue severely.

Within a week for those with a severe bite, the venom remains no more localized and, as a result, the sore may spread. This type of open sore may take months to heal.

Most brown recluse spider bites heal within three weeks. The severe bite may lead to the formation of eschar, which is a thick, dark scab.

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Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

Even if the symptoms and complications continue after 3 months, it may be concluded that it was not a brown recluse bite. The longest healing period can maximize up to 3 months.

Severe Symptoms of a Brown Recluse Bite

  • Chills and fever
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Severe pain at the bite site
  • Muscle pain
  • Severe necrotic lesions
  • Joint pain
  • Seizures and coma(extremely rare)

4. How to Diagnose a Brown Recluse Spider Bite?

The best way to diagnose any bug bite is to produce that bug, but this is quite tough and does not generally happen. The brown recluse bite is usually painless and often goes unnoticed at the time of the bite. Here are the most common diagnostic pathways-

4.1. Identify the Bug

The brown recluse spider can be recognized by a violin-pointing mark on its back along with its 6 pairs of legs. One may also, on close inspection, even see the fang marks in the bitten area.

If someone can identify the bug or carry it to the doctor, then it becomes easy, and the required treatment can be administered.

4.2. Blood Sample Analysis

Analysis of blood samples may also reveal what type of medication is to be provided to the patient based on the bite.

Blood analysis, kidney functioning analysis, urine analysis, and blood clotting time analysis all help one know the bite’s severity and prepare the treatment plan.

4.3. Immunologic Test

Enzyme-linked immunoassay 6(ELISA) has been developed to diagnose the brown recluse spider bite, but it is not used in routine diagnosis. It remains only as a lab method.

Diagnosis is done mainly by studying case history and how likely an individual may be susceptible to brown recluse spider bites.

If it is found that the person is quite prone to a spider bite, then one can follow other more accurate diagnostic pathways to conclude.

Brown recluse spider bites on the rise

5. Treatment Method for a Brown Recluse Spider Bite

There are several ways in which brown recluse spider bites can be treated. Some of the most common ways in which the brown recluse spider bite can be treated are-

If the symptoms are mild for a brown recluse spider bite, then one may follow the following steps are simple home remedies:

  • To relieve the burning sensation, one can put an ice pack
  • One should clean their bite area with soap and water and apply an antiseptic ointment.
  • If the brown recluse spider bites their limbs, they can place it to a higher level than their original body level.
  • Taking painkillers will also relieve them from mild body pain( if there).

One should also be careful and look for more severe symptoms to develop. If severe symptoms develop, they should immediately contact the doctor and seek early medical help.

If it happens so that the severity of the wound does not decrease or it keeps worsening day by day, then one should move for medical care.

They should consult a doctor who will provide medical advice because, on a delay, the sore can turn into something serious and complicated.

Treatment pathways can be:

  • The doctor may give an antibiotic so that the infection does not spread anymore.
  • If there is a large amount of tissue death or necrosis, the doctor suggests a skin graft, which includes removing the dead and decayed skin and dead tissue from the affected area.
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Image by Paco Silva from Pixabay

Characteristic featur6. Signs of Brown Recluse Spider Bite

There are several signs in which a doctor can understand that it is not a brown recluse spider bite as:

  • Brown recluse spider bites only once, so multiple marks do not indicate that it is a brown recluse spider bite
  • A brown recluse spider is primarily active during the summer months. Hence timing also plays a vital role in determining the originality of the bite.
  • Brown recluse spider bite is generally flat, and it does not bear any elevation.
  • A brown recluse spider bite generally has a pale center, while redness surrounds that pale center.

A Guide to Brown Recluse Spiders

7. How to Avoid Brown Recluse Spider Bites?

There are some simple ways to avoid brown recluse spider bites. Some of them are:

  • One can reduce clutter in their home, which prevents the dwelling of spiders.
  • One should check their shoes before wearing any bugs or spiders.
  • One can use glue traps for trapping brown recluses.
  • One can seal cracks and holes to prevent the entry of spiders.

8. Conclusion

To reduce the risk of brown recluse spiders in your home, it’s important to keep your living environment clean and clutter-free. Seal any cracks or crevices in walls, doors, and windows to prevent their entry. Regularly dust and vacuum your home, paying special attention to dark and secluded areas. Additionally, consider using sticky traps or professional pest control services if you suspect an infestation.

Although the venom is quite dangerous, injection in a minute amount makes it less toxic. Though not much dangerous, if complications arise, one must seek medical help without any hesitation.

I hope that clears your doubts regarding the brown recluse spider, and how fatal is the bite.


1.  What is a brown recluse spider?

A: The brown recluse spider, scientifically known as Loxosceles reclusa, is a venomous spider found primarily in the central and southern United States. It is known for its distinctive violin-shaped marking on its cephalothorax and its six eyes arranged in pairs.

2.  How can I identify a brown recluse spider?

A: Brown recluse spiders have several identifying features. They are typically light to medium brown in color, with a violin-shaped marking on their cephalothorax (head region). They have six eyes arranged in pairs, rather than the eight eyes commonly found in other spiders. Additionally, brown recluse spiders have long, thin legs and a body size of about 0.25 to 0.5 inches (6 to 13 mm) in length.

3.  Are brown recluse spiders aggressive?

A: Brown recluse spiders are not aggressive by nature. They are called “recluses” because they typically avoid contact with humans. Bites usually occur when a spider is unintentionally disturbed, such as when it is pressed against the skin or trapped within clothing or bedding. They will bite in self-defense if they feel threatened, but they generally prefer to retreat and hide rather than engage with humans.

Read more
  1. Wright, Seth W., et al. “Clinical presentation and outcome of brown recluse spider bite.” Annals of emergency medicine 30.1 (1997): 28-32. ↩︎
  2. Vetter, R. S. (2008). Spiders of the genus Loxosceles (Araneae, Sicariidae): a review of biological, medical and psychological aspects regarding envenomations. The Journal of Arachnology36(1), 150-163. ↩︎
  3. Swanson, David L., and Richard S. Vetter. “Loxoscelism.” Clinics in dermatology 24.3 (2006): 213-221. ↩︎
  4. Sams, Hunter H., et al. “Necrotic arachnidism.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 44.4 (2001): 561-576. ↩︎
  5. Germain, Ronald N., Ellen A. Robey, and Michael D. Cahalan. “A decade of imaging cellular motility and interaction dynamics in the immune system.” Science 336.6089 (2012): 1676-1681. ↩︎
  6. Gan, Stephanie D., and Kruti R. Patel. “Enzyme immunoassay and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology 133.9 (2013): 1-3. ↩︎

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Anuradha Saha

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