Home » Diseases and Conditions » Brown Recluse Spider Bite – Stages, Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment

Brown Recluse Spider Bite – Stages, Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

The majority of spiders are not harmful to humans. Of the over 20,000 various spider species in America, only about 60 are able to bite humans. Within this small group, there are only 4 acknowledged to be of harm to humans โ€“ of which the brown recluse is one. Only the black widow and brown recluse spiders have been linked with any disease or any very rare incidents of death.

The brown recluse spiders are noted for their pattern of a violin on the back of the body. This violin pattern has the large part of the violin towards the spider head and violin neck pointing toward the rear.

The brown recluse spiders are not known to be aggressive and only bite when they are threatened, normally when pressed against the skin of the victim. This spider looks for warm, dark, dry surroundings such as closets, attics, barns, porches, old tires, woodpiles as well as basements. Its webs are mostly found in crevices or corners and they are not able to capture any prey. Most brown recluse bites happen in the months of the summer.

The bite of the brown recluse is enormously poisonous, more poisonous that that of the rattlesnake. But the recluse venom creates fewer diseases than the bite of a rattlesnake due to the small amount of venom which is injected in the victims. This venom is lethal to tissues and cells.

  • This venom is a gathering of enzymes. A specific enzyme causes devastation of membranes of local cells and this disturbs the reliability of tissue leading to interruption of fat, skin as well as blood vessels. This leads to the eventual death of the tissue known as necrosis especially in areas in the immediate area around the site of bite.
  • This venom induces an immune response in the victim. This immune system discharges inflammatory mediators such as histamines, cytokines as well as interleukins that signal blood cells which are white to come to the injury area.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite – Stages

In very bad cases, these same agents of inflammation can also cause injury. It is these secondary causes of the venom, which are rare, may cause more substantial side effects of the bite:

  • Red blood cell destruction
  • Platelet count which is low
  • Clots of blood in the capillaries but loss of ability to develop clots where needed
  • Kidney damage
  • Coma
  • Death

Brown Recluse Spider Bite Symptoms

The brown recluse bite usually goes unnoticed in the beginning due to the fact that bites are painless. In some case there is certain minor burning with the feeling of the sting of the bee that could be observed at the stage of the bite. The symptoms normally develop 2 to 8 hours after the initial bite. Please remember that majority of bites create very little tissue damage.

Victims may have these symptoms:

  • Pain at the site of the bite which is severe and develops after approximately 4 hours
  • Itching which is severe
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain

At first, the site of the bite is a little red and when examined closely it may show fang marks. More common, the site of the bite can become fixed and heal with very little scarring finishing healing in days or weeks. But in those occasional cases, the local reaction will be much starker with swelling as well as blistering often leading to a blue color, and then leading to scarring and necrotic lesion. Signs which can be present are:


  • Commonly blistering
  • Necrosis or death of the skin and less common the subcutaneous fat
  • Destructive and severe lesions with in rare cases deep and wide borders

If you believe that you or someone in your household has been bitten by this type of spider, the individual needs to be seen by a medical professional that day. If at all possible, bring the spider to the doctorโ€™s office as identification of this spider will be helpful in making the diagnosis correctly.

If the individual is unable to see their primary care physician that day, the individual should see medical professionals at an emergency room.

Brown Recluse Spider Bite Treatment

The physician will try to first make the correct diagnosis. The doctor will ask questions about the bite event, time of the bite, any other medical problems, medication as well as allergies

Lab studies will be performed including complete blood work up, electrolytes, kidney functions, blood clotting studies and urinalysis.

After the initial evaluation, the medical professional may provide treatment as follows:

  • Tetanus shot
  • Pain medication
  • Antibiotics if any signs of infection are present in the wound area
  • Anti-histamines such as Benadryl for relief of itching

There is no anti-venom available in the US to counteract the brown recluse spider bite. There are some controversial therapies such as steroids and the drug dapsone. But these are reserved for individuals with very severe systemic disease such as anemia, blood clotting problems and kidney failure. These therapies have proven to have little benefits.

The individual will need to have a follow up visit with the physician due to the wounds needing to be checked daily for at least 3 to 4 days. After the initial exam by the physician, the individual can expect the following type of follow-up:

  • Daily follow up of the wounds for the initial 96 hours in order to assess the probability or extent of necrosis of the wound
  • For individuals with systemic disease, hospitalization may be necessary
  • Antibiotes will be continued until any secondary infections clear
  • Follow up with surgeon if there is necrosis of the wound. At these times the surgeon can remove very carefully any dead tissue in necrotic areas

Brown Recluse Spider Bite Pictures

Brown Recluse Spider Bite Brown Recluse Spider Bite Brown Recluse Spider Bite Brown Recluse Spider Bite Brown Recluse Spider Bite
  1. I was bitten by a brown recluse spider about a week and a half ago. I have been searching for info on the internet and your site gave the most info. Although, some skin became necrotic, it was removed and now the wet to dry treatment seems to be working, but no signs of healing yet, I’m a diabetic too. My doctors, family physician and podiatrist, did not order blood tests and the bite is now 4×6 inches. Should I approach them about blood tests? Thanks

  2. OMG!.. i didn’t know about this spider.. i was catching bugs for a school project and i ran into this spider. I had no idea what it was, I thought it was just a regular spider. I caught it without any knowing that i had a high chance of dying if i got bit.

  3. Last night I was playing around on Facebook and the charger for my computer fell out and when I reached down to grab it I noticed one was laptop desk. I’m deathly afraid of spiders so I jumped up and then I noticed what kind of spider it was. I could’ve got bitten. ๐Ÿ™

  4. Saw one today in my church, about 2 in diameter. I had walked past it several times before i saw it, i freaked. I made my dad come and kill it with a fly swatter.

  5. I just got bitten by a brown recluse 4 days ago. Luckilly i seeked er attention right away. But now I am having strange symptoms other than just with the bite area itself. I really feel like I don’t know what to do about this. Can’t afford another er visit. Already had 2!!

  6. Just got bit and my stomach has a hole all the way through!

  7. I got bit at the base of my skull a few years ago and the Dr treated it like a boil (antibiotics). After two weeks with no improvement (it was getting larger and more inflamed) he lanced it but it did not drain. The following day I went to ER and the surgeon dug out 5 “cores”. Said in a couple more days I would have had some serious complications. Told me people experience two different reactions depending on body type. Mine resulted in a boil-like inflamation where the body walls of the venom into a sack of sorts called a core. The other reaction is the bad one. Basically the tissue turns to black cottage cheese and is very difficult to stop from spreading.

  8. am only 12 and i keep thinknig i got bit by 1 but it was my cat he clawed me in the head and am freaking out cause i think i got bit by 1 and stuff :c

  9. i feel so sorry that was so gross to see a mans leg get eatten off yah…… afence

  10. I just got bit today. not sure if it is a brown recluse but all symptoms fit so far, the infected area is just red and swollen right now i don’t know what i should do?

  11. sean . go to doctor . had a swollen area on my leg. started last weekend. very sore . been treated by a doctor with anti bio. yesterday doctor said had been bit by brown recluse spider.

  12. theres one in my basement im scared…
    what do i do!!!!!!

  13. what does a bite look like right after you’ve been bitten?

  14. I was bitten in 2003 on my middle finger just above the 2nd joint. I did not know I had been bitten but everything followed exactly as described. After 2 surgeries and 10 days in the hospital on constant IV’s, I had almost lost my finger, and maybe my hand had they not stopped the destruction after the 2nd surgery. I don’t have full range of motion of that hand and fingers even after extensive physical therapy. I became so afraid of spiders or course, and I just found one in my bathroom. I captured it in a clear glass so I could confirm it was a brown recluse, and you could see the violin shape exactly as described. I finally poured hydrochloride over it and then cut it up with a knife. Perhaps a little overkill, however, it was a very devastating experience for me, very scary…….I could have died before receiving the proper treatment.

  15. I just caught one in my apartment. I have it in a Tupperware container for now. Not sure what to do with it. I’m scared to open the container.

  16. These guys were all over Utah while I was growing up. I’ve seen some big mothers in basements recently too. Only thing is…. Spiders are everywhere and if they were commonly killing us off than we wouldn’t be. Its like never eating a burger just because Ecoli exists. Keep on keeping on and pay attention is all. And to the dude who says there a hole in his stomach: you must be some hard c0re rebel just sitting on the computer while the stuff that keeps foreign objects out of our bodies seems to be disintegrating before your eyes.

  17. I don’t know if my bite came from a brown recluse,but I have 2 bites with big blisters on them right beside each other.A little pain,and very itchy.I don’t know if I should go to the dr right now,or should I wait until the blisters bust.I really hope that it is NOT what I think it is.For now I will just watch and keep a close eye on it.

  18. I got one on my hip which got about the size of a quarter. Black necrotic skin, very red surrounding…just stayed that way for 4 weeks. Went to MD and took doxycycline for a week, no change, then Keflex for a week. It looks a bit better now. It is painful and sensitive to the touch. Part of the necrotic skin/scab came off after 5 weeks, and the skin underneath looks sore, but pink; not nasty or infected. Just keep it clean and don’t pick at it and get it infected with some nasty bacteria. It is amazing how deep the wound actually is. That venom just kills the tissue! Main thing is, don’t get a secondary infection by messing with it and picking at it.

  19. My dog was bitten and she is going on a week… The bite area just looks like a bruise with the 2 fang holes… but the problems are under the bite, fluid build up in some areas… and hard tissues in others. She spent 3 days and 2 nights at the vet. After several drainings of fluid… Her skin is just now showing signs of necrosis… but not at the bite site. Instead at the drain sites. Her overall health and spirits seem much better. She is eating, drinking, and appears ok, so she is home with us. But the draining areas are quite nasty. She is being pumped with 2 types of antibiotics. I’m just today noticing something strange which makes me think the venom might have reached nervous system? She is itching her face, and sneezing constantly. This dog is 9 1/2 years old… in extreme good health otherwise. The thing is… she’s my family… she’s been through a divorce with me and spent many nights with me while I cried myself to sleep. She’s like a child to me, the vet bill has already reached well over $1000. I’m having a very hard time being realistic with our options. I love her, and I just want her better.

  20. @ Nicole,
    I hope your dog recovers soon..I really appreciate you for taking good care of your dog and treating him as one of your family members.. I’ll pray for you and your dog..God Bless!

  21. Hi yall! 10 days ago i was bit by a brown small spider it hurt but i didn’t think it was a brown recluse it was soon small! but i had an allergic reaction to the bite i broke out all over in red rash and didn’t feel good so i went to the ER late that night they gave me a steriod shot told me it was an allergic reaction to a bug bite to take Benedryl every 4 hrs & to see my doc if it wasn’t any better by monday (it happened on a Saturday late afternoon i was cleaning out my bathroom Closet) anyways it hurt really bad and then a blister formed so i went to the clinic close to home and saw a young nurse practitioner which told me it wasnt a poisonous spider popped the blister and dabbed the infection out and gave me some antibiotics and told me to continue takin benedryl every 4hrs and gave me Zithromax for the infection well then i took the zithromax all the way and it still wasn’t getting better and it got more sore after he popped the blister the day after it started bruisin but hey i didn’t know anythin about BR bites so i thought it was bruised because of the needle he used to pop the blister and my son had an ear infection and rolled into it pretty hard that night so i didn’t think much of it well it started swelling more and more and the bruise started getting bigger i went to see another doc and they said i might have to be put under and have surgery on it to drain and get some of the infected area from the venom out so i went to a general surgeon and they told me it should’ve never been popped omg Zithromax doesnt work but they did tell me he was gonna let it run its course it was mainly minor necrosis so im supposed to go back nxt wk to have it checked and they also gave me a rl antibotic so just letting ya know watch who u go see when u know its a spider bite and all make sure the doc knows wtf hes doing is all they told me it could’ve killed me if the spider had been bigger and got more in it could’ve gone into my blood stream just saying be safer than sorry ya know

  22. I was bite about 6 days ago. I never went to dr. Treated my self with genger root-peroxide-neosporin. Im getting better slowley but not safe yet.

  23. I just got bit and it’s been three days ago and it as got worse I went to the doctor and they gave me some Bactrim is that enough to take care of it

  24. It hurts I felt like I got bit?

  25. Nicole I hope everything worked out for your dog ๐Ÿ™

  26. my daughter who is 19 was bitten on top of the thigh 2 days ago. She felt it bite her as she was sleeping, woke up, and saw the spider run down her leg. She said it burned like fire from the minute it bit her and then in about 4 hours she was in so much stabbing pain at the sight that she carried her baby and walked about 10 blocks to a friends workplace where she was then taken to a rural ER. The Dr prescribed Bactrim and Loretab and she went home and vomiting and more intense pain at the site until she went back in 5 hours, gave her a shot of Demeral and phenergan for the nausia. She went home only to return a 3rd time to the ER due to extreme nausea and vomiting, as well as intense pain. She was then admitted, started only IV fluids, she actually had only 1 bactrim for about 32 hours until the dr realized she wasn’t on any, gave IV antibiotics and tordal, tramadal and loretab (pain wasn’t being managed)…transferred to a larger hospital 30 miles away. She waited 3.5 hours there for even a drink of water, much less any pain med…she began to break down and cry several times (understandable) and finally a resident Dr saw her and ordered a regular diet, and morphine for pain. stopped antibiotics and NO bloodwork has been done at all. I worry about the medical care in the US and I worry about my daughter right now, no one really seems to know how to treat a brown recluse bite here!

  27. So I have this red hard swollen spot under my arm, when I first discovered it last night it was itchy and smaller, and I did not see fang marks, it grew the more I itched it, I think and hope it was just a mosquito bite but idk, it has gotten black ever so often but that’s because my shirt is black, and when it heals the cloth gets caught, I don’t feel sick or have muscle pains, and I don’t recall any initial bite pain, but do know I have a lot of mosquito bites. What would the bite look like after 3 days if it was a really recluse bite?

  28. I found one and I think it bit me on the lip no hole yet and no pain or itching hoping it didn’t.

  29. Never knew I was bit, then just happen to find an open sore yesterday morning on my abdomen which looks identical to the pics. The weird thing that makes me wonder is when did it happen? I had 2 c-sections 20+ years ago so the border of the sore is numb already. It was oozing some blood yesterday but all in all its yellowish around the edges on the inside and it looks like it goes down in layers. We have lots of nurses in the family and they told me the dead skin around the border is the give away and said the border looks angry. I’m not sure….haven’t went to the Dr just yet. Yesterday I put Neosporin on it and it was a bit sore and last night when I removed the bandage it looked horrible so I showered and cleaned it and patted it dry. This morning it didn’t look as bad as last night but its still an open wound about a 1/4″ inside diameter and open and then the overall dim. is an inch from dead skin to dead skin peeling. So I’m gonna keep my eye on it and see if it changes in size. If it does then I will go to the Dr ASAP.

  30. I got bitten .. And I haven’t seen a dr. Yet.. And it’s going on 3 weeks.. What should I do..? It just looks infected. But it looks like its getting better..

  31. I swiped a spider off me this morning about 9 o’clock and I think I got bitten I know its a brown recluse. There is a little bump and what looks like a scratch its been a hour and a half since this has occurred and I cant tell if the stuff that I feel is just my mind messing with me or what but it says there will be muscle pains well me trying to type around the bite the muscle feels week in my arm no severe itching has occurred yet no changing of color or swollen areas have occurred but I don’t want to have a hole in my arm. I’m only 15 and I play sports and have a lot of life left if you have any remarks let me know please!

  32. God, this is a very scary spider!! I hope I never come across one!! I can’t get over the damage they can do.

  33. Me and my stepbrother were at the Creek in the back yard;to do some clean up trash in the Environment. We saw one at first and We ran to the other side of the creek,but The brown recluse spider Hop on my leg and crawled up it making me Laugh. But I looked down and scream and started running and swipe the spider off because I knew what kind of spider it was. Even though I got it off It still feels like it’s crawling up my body!!!;(

  34. I just caught one in my house
    First time we saw one since we moved
    I know I didn’t get bit but it still scared me

  35. I just sent my room mate to hospital because after staying overnight at a friend’s she came home with two bug bites. At first they were both swollen, now the one on her foot is turning black where the bite is and the swelling has gone up her ankle. Around the black bite spot it goes to purple, then red then bright pink. The one on her elbow is turning black now, and it is still very swollen, and extremely hot to the touch. She is in slot of pain and it itches her severely. She also has been feeling sick and a little woozy. After looking at the pictures of the bites of a brown recluse, we are pretty sure that’s what it was. What is anyone’s input into this, did I do right by forcing her to go to hospital?

  36. What Does The Bite Look Like Right After Being Bitten?

  37. I was bitten 2 days ago and it started out small pimple like, next morning was pea sized red bump, by late evening it had almost doubled and that night my hand started swelling. I was freaked out when I realized what had happened, but got medical attention, being treated with strong antibiotics and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I am in the majority and it starts healing. I will wear gloves from now on when working in the yard. This has been a very bad experience for me and my family.

  38. When my mom first got bit by the spider we thought it was just a little pimple. The next day it got red and had a black dot in the middle. We took her to the doctor the doctor gave her some medicine. The next couple of days it got better she learned her lesson about going in the garden without gloves we all learned I do It all the time.

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