Spiders are one of the commonly encountered species/pests on a routine basis. There are almost more than 40,000 spider species across the globe. The spider bites can be painful, but seldomly dangerous. A spider tends to bite only as a part of self-defence, in cases of feeling trapped or on foreseeing a threat. Almost, in all the spider species, venom is quite weak, to have any considerable effect on the human beings. However, CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) have classified two spider species as venomous, which are, Black Widow Spiders and Brown Recluse Spiders. Because, only these breeds of spiders tend to have long fangs to inject itself into the skin and exhibit strong toxicity to affect humans.
Some of the general symptoms, that one may experience upon having a spider bite
- Intense swelling
- Extreme pain and stiffness
- Muscle spasms and cramping
- Fever accompanied with chills
- Pain in the abdomen
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Difficulty with breathing and light-headedness
- Excessive sweating
- Redness, Inflammation and Rashes
- Blisters on the skin, eventually turning reddish purple
The signs of a Black Widow Spider include
- Pain and swelling in the bite region, extending to the belly, chest or back
- Intense stomach cramping, seldomly mistaken for ruptured appendix
- Nausea, Sweating accompanied with chills
The signs of a Brown Recluse Spider include
- Pain tends to gradually increase during the initial eight hours post the bite
- Fever accompanied with chills and body ache.
- Skin tends to turn dark blue/purple forming an open sore (ulcer) and grows, as the peripheral skin dies
- The growth of the ulcer gets terminated within 10 days, post the bite
Also, bites by certain other spider breeds such as Hobo, Tarantula or Brazilian wandering spider can be immensely painful and toxic. However, one can use natural remedies at home to treat bites by other spider breeds or visit a practioner based on the severity of the symptoms.
Preliminary precautions to be taken immediately upon a spider bite
- Removal of bacteria and poisonous agents by cleansing off the region affected by the bite, using soap and water
- Applying alcohol onto the affected area is highly advised
- The bitten region should be lifted and bandage should be tied to restrict the injected poison to prevent it from spreading. It also enables to reduce swelling.
While treating the bites by spiders, the key step is to neutralize the bitten area and flush away with the toxins.
Natural remedies to try for at home in treating spider bites
Ice can be applied on the bitten area, as it acts as an analgesic to reduce the pain and inflammation resulting from the spider bite. The cold temperature enables to numb the affected area and minimise the itchiness. Wrap handful of ice cubes in a thin cloth (towel/napkin) and apply the same on the bitten wound, allowing it to stay for 15 minutes. The ice helps in relieving the pain and cooling down the wound instantly. Repeating the ice therapy several times a day, particularly in the first 24 hours, post the bite can help in minimising the symptoms. Thus, Icing, is one of the effective natural therapies, conventionally used for reliving spider bites.
Activated Carbon (Charcoal)
Activated Carbon (Charcoal) is one of the excellent remedies for treating spider bites, particularly the Brown Recluse Spider bites. As charcoal neutralises the effect of the spider’s poison, allowing for a speedy recovery. Charcoal paste can be made by mixing equal parts of charcoal and water, and the paste can be applied on the bitten wound by covering a bandage and allowing it to stay for 1 to 4 hours. The charcoal therapy can be repeated 2 to 3 times a day, which enables to considerably reduce the intensity of the symptoms.
Turmeric (Curcumin) Paste
Turmeric is an effective natural occurring anti-septic It is rich in essential compounds, that help in combating toxins (inclusive of the venom injected by a spider bite). Turmeric cures many health problems. The germicide and anti-inflammatory propertied of the turmeric enable in relieving pain, redness and inflammation resulted out of a spider bite. Paste of turmeric powder and olive oil can be made and applied on the area of spider bite. Allowing the paste to stay on the bite for about an hour and rinsing it off with luke-warm water can help in minimising the symptoms. Repeating the same routinely, facilitates relief from the symptomatic conditions.
Aloe Vera gel
Aloe vera has been popularly used for treating various skin ailments, inclusive of insect bites. The leaf of the plant comprises of several essential elements such as minerals, vitamins, enzymes as well as fatty acids. These elements enable in minimising the inflammation and itchiness caused due to bites by spider. The pure aloe vera gel also soothes the region affected by spider bite. Ensure the aloe vera products used have higher quantities of gel (aloe vera extract), as it will help in reducing the symptoms at a faster rate.
Baking Soda (Sodium Bi-carbonate) paste
This multi-purpose element is an excellent and one of the cost-effective methods for treating spider bites. Mix baking soda with water in a proportion of 3:1 to form a thick paste and apply the same on the wound bite. The paste should be allowed to stay for not more than 5 minutes and washed off with water. The mixture can be applied several times daily. It effectively reduces the symptoms such as pain, stinging sensation and itchiness considerably. Also, the alkalinity of Sodium bi-carbonate, enables in draining out the venom.
Apart from potato chips, surprisingly, potato is one to sought for remedy in treating spider bites. As it helps in combating swelling and pain. As per research studies, presence of certain compounds in potato peels tend to have anti-inflammatory properties, that turn out to be effective in treating spider bites. ‘Potato Cataplasm’ can be prepared by shredding a peeled potato and tying off the shreds into a thin cloth. The cataplasm can be applied onto the site of wound until the potato shreds turn dry. The procedure can be repeated intermittently. Before application, the region should be cleaned properly.
Lavender Essential oil
It is one of the popularly used essential oil with an array of benefits. The oil is extracted from the plant (Lavandula angustifolia) and is known to treat several bodily ailments. Being an analgesic and anti-micro biotic, the oil helps in calming down inflammation and redness caused due to spider bite infections. Thus, enabling to promote healing. Adding a few drops of lavender oil into a carrier oil (such as Coconut oil, Olive oil) and applying it directly on the bitten region can help in relieving the symptoms. This oil can also be used undiluted; however, a patch test is recommended.
Wintergreen Essential Oil
The oil is extracted from the leaves of the Wintergreen plant (Gaultheria procumben). Also, popularly known as, ‘Gaultheria oil’, comprises of an exclusive chemical component, ‘Methyl Salicylate’. This distinctive chemical component imparts the oil with strong soothing properties, making it an ideal component for many topical applications. The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving tendencies of the oil makes it a preferred natural remedy for healing spider bites. The wintergreen oil upon blending with a carrier oil can be applied on the site of the bitten area. The oil should not be used undiluted, as it can lead to irritation.
Witch Hazel Extract
The leaves, bark and twigs of the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) plant are distilled to extract the medicinal liquid. Conventionally, it has been used to treat several skin ailments. Witch Hazel contains Tannins, a natural compound, giving it astringent properties. Due to which, it has an ability to cleanse off the irritants, minimise inflammation and act as anti-microbial. Alcohol free Witch Hazel pads or Witch Hazel liquid dabbed onto a cotton ball can be applied on the site of the Spider bite. Multiple applications can be used in day, depending on the tolerability.
Spider bites generally are acquired while on trek or during travel to dense forested regions. Spider bites can be prevented in following ways:
- If on travel in a woody or a forest region, ensure wearing of long-sleeved shirts, gloves and long pants.
- The trekking attire and the footwear should be sprayed with an insect repellent.
- The corners of the home should be cleaned thoroughly to make it free of cobwebs.
- Heaps of lumber/rocks should be removed from the surrounding area of the house and storage of firewood’s should be avoided in the house.
The above listed remedies can help in managing spider bites naturally. However, in case of severe symptoms resulting out of poisonous spider bites, medical consultation should be seeked. As if the treatment gets delayed, it can result into extreme complications, even leading to death. Population in endemic regions are required to be extra cautious!
Now that we know, how to deal with these eight-legged creepy creatures!