Given that a friend of mine was just hospitalized from one of these nasty buggers (or arachniders for you pedants) I decided to do a little bit of research and share my findings, so that any of you living in areas where they are common can take precautions. Like I said, my friend was put in the hospital, so they can be quite serious.
The brown recluse is generally non-aggressive; unlike certain nasty creatures, it usually doesn't go for blood. It bites defensively. The fact that they aren't very big, barely the size of a quarter, does little to help with recognition of their presence, however. Avoiding dark and cluttered areas is another good start. The thing to be concerned about is putting on clothes that have been lying around for a while, or disturbing bedding that hasn't been touched. Even then, it's only necessary for some people to be concerned- like poison ivy, many people will have different levels of severity when reacting to the bite. In the worst case scenario, like what happened to my friend, the tissue becomes necrotic (begins to die) in the area of the bite. This can cause all sorts of nasty complications, such as the second picture illustrates. The necrotic tissue can in turn cause more problems independent of the spider's bite, by releasing harmful chemicals into the victim's system. This is usually what leads to the need for hospitalization.
Symptoms of bites can range from anything from harmless to dangerous. Already mentioned is the necrotic tissue. Sudden or slow onset pain in the area of the bite, is the most common symptom. General itchiness, outside of the localized area, fever, chills, nausea and even going into shock can also result, though these are less common. Finally, and least common is the "volcano lesion" which looks like the picture above.
If you are bitten, here are a few things you can do:
- Seek medical attention immediately.
- Treat for symptoms such as shock.
- Put ice on the wound- the longer you can delay the poison, the better.
- Try to find the spider. It is important for proper treatment and identification.
- If you already smacked it with your boot, it's mangled corpse can still help.
- Get to the hospital as quickly as you can- the longer you wait, the more damage is done.