5 Stages of Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Prevention and first aid

This article gives small information about the stages of brown recluse spider bite, it’s symptoms, effects, first aid, and prevention method. This spider bite is very common in the southern and midwestern parts of the USA. Let’s discuss this spider in detail.

Stages of brown recluse spider bite
Fig1: Brown recluse spider

What is the Brown Recluse spider?

Brown recluse spider is typically 6 eyed creatures arranged in three pairs. These spiders reside in the Midwestern and southwestern parts of the United States.

Brown recluse spiders have long thin legs covered with small hairs. It is brown and consists of a dark violin-shaped spot on its back. This patch is hard to recognize so sometimes they can be confused with other types of spiders. The other name of the spider is violin or fiddle-back spider. As per the scientific nomenclature it is named as Loxosceles recluse.

This spider loved to reside in warm climates and can be especially found in the central and southern parts of the United States. They prefer dark and shady areas like leaves, rocks, or wooden piles. Sometimes they can also be found in the house under the porches. They can also reside inside shoes or under the clothes lying on the floor for a longer period.

These spiders are mostly active at night time. If they enter somebody’s house they prefer to reside at closets or other darkened areas of the house which is dry and warm. Brown recluse is highly toxic but the spiders release only a very tiny amount during a bite.

Male spiders are less venomous than females and release only half the amount of venom in comparison to females. The spiders are loaded with sphingomyelinase D with the capacity to destroy the skin tissues. It is even said that the potency of Brown recluse venom is higher than that of the rattlesnake.

Fig2: Habitat of Brown Recluse Spider

Why do these spiders bite humans?

Brown recluse spiders rarely bite humans. They are not combative. They bite humans only for self-defense or if they are captured or stuck against our skin due to tangles in clothes or bedsheets. They usually prefer to run rather than bite.

Stages of brown recluse spider bite

Brown recluse spider’s venom carries more potential to destroy the skin tissues, blood vessels, and nerves than that of the rattlesnake. Its venom is capable of destruction of blood vessels resulting in ischemia. Ischemia is a condition where there is a lack of blood flow or oxygen to the tissue. This results in tissue death.

There are generally 5 stages of a brown recluse spider bite:

Initial bite

This spider has tiny fangs and they give painless bites. After biting for 3-8 hours a small tender area that is red and inflamed can be observed. As time passes by the area starts to give burning sensations. People may progress necrotic lesions. The lesion appears to be:

  • Sink dry patch in the skin
  • Patch appearing bluish
  • Yellowish center and redness in the periphery
  • Blisters in the center.

After 3rd-5th day

The progression of the lesion depends on the released venom. If the spider infuses only the least amount of venom and there is no other complication, the discomfort usually disappears in 3-5 days. If the venom is quite enough to spread then it will cause the lesion to expand in a few days or weeks.

7th day -14th  day

If the bite is severe the necrosis increases and the wound becomes larger. Generally, it takes 7-14 days to break the skin after a spider bite. These types of lesions may extend up to a few months.

After 3rd week

In about 3 weeks most of the recluse spider bites are healed. For highly severe bites the wound will produce necrotic tissues. These necrotic tissues are collectively called eschar. It appears to be a large black scab covering the wound.

After 3 months

The maximum of recluse bites gets healed within three months. The wound that takes more than three months to heal may not be a recluse bite at all.

Symptoms, effects
Fig 3:Lesion due to spider bite


It is a myth that recluse spider bite results in severe wounds destroying skin tissue rapidly. But truth is that very few cases result in such injury. Most of the cases are healed automatically without any or very mild symptoms.

Rarely do they have complications like acute anemia, blood clotting problems, and sometimes kidney failure. Most of the bites are painless at the beginning and can be seen mostly on the chest, thighs, and upper arm.

Brown recluse spider causes local tissue damage. The most common symptoms are :

  • Rashes
  • Feeling of burning sensation, itchiness and redness appear after several days of the bite.
  • The bluish, purplish region around the area of the bite. It is surrounded by a whitish ring and a red outer ring appears similar to a bulls’ eye
  • Formation of blister which later changes to black color.
  • Headache, body pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • General discomfort
  • Sweating

Risk factors

Recluse spiders do not bite humans usually but still, people who are working indoors are prone to getting spider bites. People working as janitors, mechanics, housekeepers are more prone to get recluse bites as they work in the areas where the spiders prefer to reside. Those who are living in the southeastern USA are at higher risk of these spider attacks.


Till now there are no deaths recorded due to recluse bites. Most of the cases have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Only a few cases are severe likely to get healed completely within 3 months.

Only 10 percent of cases can present serious skin complications. Some other complications include anemia, kidney failure, and other blood clotting problems.


Similar types of severe lesions can be seen in many clinical conditions other than spider bites like bacterial infections, viral infections, fungal infections, diabetes, and other skin problems.

It can not be concluded that the peculiar rashes or wounds are due to the recluse spider until and unless the victim lives in that area or the spider is caught and identified.

Differential diagnosis

There is a mnemic NOT RECLUSE which helps in differentiating recluse spiders bites. Given below are some key points which can diagnose whether the bite is from a brown recluse or not.


A brown recluse spider bites a single time, not multiple times.


Recluse spiders are not aggressive. They only bite if they feel the condition of self-defense. Until and unless their habitat is disturbed brown recluse spiders won’t bite.


 There is generally a specific timing for recluses bite. Most commonly they are active from April to October.

Red center

If the wound has a red center then it is not due to the brown recluse bites. The wound with a pale center with redness around is identified as a recluse spider bite. Brown recluse bites usually have a pale center with redness around the bite area.


If the wounds are elevated then it is not due to brown recluse. The wounds are flat in recluses.


The wound from brown recluses will completely reconcile within 3 months.


Bite from brown recluse is smaller than 5 inches.

Ulcerates too early

If the ulceration takes place early then it is not from recluse bites. Most of the recluse ulcers start necrotizing after 1-2 weeks after the bite.


Brown Recluse bite usually swells only if they are on the face or feet. At other parts, they are less likely to swell


Brown recluse bites do not generate pus. They form blisters later change to eschar.


Any antivenom is not recommended for such spider bites. Instead, in most cases of bites ice treatments, rest, and elevation of the organ will work much more effectively. But there are many medications, ointments that are used in the management of spider bites though none of them are proven to be dependable and productive.

Read also: Triamcinolone Acetonide Cream: Uses and Risk Factors

Some of the medications are:

  • Colchicine usually used for gout
  • Corticosteroids
  • Dapsone used as a medication for  leprosy
  • Diphenhydramine which is an antihistamine
  • Hyperbaric oxygen
  • Nitroglycerin used as heart medication
  • NSAIDs, ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Pain relieverS

First Aid Treatment for Brown recluse spider bites

Spider bites are frequently misdiagnosed, although they could be the result of other skin disorders or infections. Similar-looking skin reactions are caused by tick bites, viral, fungal, and bacterial infections, medication reactions, and diabetes-related skin problems.

Most of the recluse spider bites are usually treatable at home by first aid treatment. People should collect and identify the spider responsible if at all possible.

It is better to trap the spider under a clear cup or jar so it can be viewed plainly. Replace the lid or turn the container over and secure the paper over the top.

There are some first-aid measures that could help treat minor wounds due to spider bites:

• Maintain your composure. The circulation of venom into the blood will be increased if there is too much agitation or movement.

• Apply a cool, damp towel to the bite, or wrap it in a cloth and place an ice pack over it.

• Avoid using a tourniquet. It may do more harm than good.

• Make an effort to positively identify the spider or catch it to determine its species.

If your symptoms aren’t too severe, consider any of these easy home remedies:

• Use soap and water to clean it.

• Apply antibiotic cream to the affected area.

• If you’ve been bitten on an arm or leg, lift it as you rest. This may help to minimize edema.

• Cover it with ice.

• Use an over-the-counter pain reliever.

• Keep an eye out for more serious symptoms.

If the wound is severe, a visit to a doctor is recommended. Severe bites may show symptoms like: 

• An ulcer or blister with a dark (blue, purple, or black) center has formed as a result of the bite.

• Intense pain.

• An infection has developed at the biting site.

• Difficulty in breathing.

Because certain spider bites contain tetanus spores, you may require a tetanus vaccine after being bitten. Antibiotics may be required if you have an infection. It is better to take these first-aid steps on your route to the doctor’s office or the emergency room:

• As soon as possible, wash the bite wound with soap and water.

• Raise the region where the bite happened.

• Apply a cool compress or ice pack to the bite for 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off to help with swelling and pain

Pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can assist to alleviate discomfort. If there is a feeling of itching, an antihistamine like Benadryl might help.

Fig: 4 First Aid measures of Spider bite


Though brown recluse spider bites are uncommon, there are ways to lower your chances of acquiring one. People who live in places where brown recluse spiders congregate should take these precautions. Spiders bite just in self-defense when they are stuck between the skin and other things.

 To avoid spider bites

  • Educate yourself with the appearance of deadly spiders and their favored habitats.
  • When handling stored boxes or firewood, as well as clearing out sheds, garages, basements, attics, and crawl spaces, wear long-sleeved shirts, hats, long pants tucked into socks, gloves, and boots.
  • When indoors, people should shake out any clothing, shoes, or bedding that they haven’t worn in a while, especially if they’ve been stored in a dark closet, attic, or basement.
  • Before using gardening gloves, boots, or outerwear, inspect and shake them out.
  • Insect repellents, such as DEET, should be used. Follow the package’s instructions carefully.
  • Install tight-fitting screens on windows and doors, seal cracks where spiders
  • can get in, and use safe indoor pesticides to keep insects and spiders out of the house.
  • Remove waste or heaps of rocks or lumber from the area around your house, and don’t store firewood against the house’s walls.
  • Ensure that beds are not pushed against the wall and that only the bed’s legs are in contact with the floor. Items should not be stored under the bed, and bedding should not drag on the floor.
  • Get rid of spiders and spiderwebs in your house.
  • Rather than crushing a spider against your flesh, flick it off with your finger if one is on your skin.
  • Wear gloves, a medical mask, and eye protection when cleaning tarantula enclosures.

Quick Overview about Brown Recluse spider

Anatomy/MorphologyBrown recluse spiders are roughly the size of a quarter and range in color from tan to dark brown. Their eyes are grouped in three U-shaped pairs in a distinctive arrangement (most spiders have eight eyes). They frequently feature a darker, violin-shaped marking on their underside. This is why the brown recluse is also known as the fiddleback or violin spider.
 Regions FoundThey’re mostly found in the United States’ south-central region, in places like Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Georgia. It’s conceivable to transport a brown recluse outside of its native range, although it’s unlikely.
Appearing timeBrown recluses burrow in “harborages” over the winter, emerging in April to May and departing in October.
Where they liveWarm places, such as insulation, cardboard boxes, or newspaper pages, are sought by these spiders. They often reside under the bark of dead trees or rocks when they are out in the open. They may creep into your shoes or bedsheets and bite you if they become trapped against your flesh unintentionally.
What they feed onBrown recluses aren’t a particularly aggressive species. Although the spin webs, they do not use them to trap their prey. Instead, the web is used as a haven or a secure base. Cockroaches, ants, and crickets are among the crawling bugs they eat.
LifespanBrown recluses have long lives, up to 5 to 7 years in some cases. One of the reasons they live so long is that they can go for lengthy periods of time without eating.
Table 1: Quick Overview about brown recluses


A person who has been bitten by a brown recluse spider has a good chance of recovering, especially with appropriate care, because most victims do not require treatment and heal on their own.

In most situations, minor bite wounds heal fully in a week or less. Complications are more likely in people who have other medical diseases, such as diabetes or immune system issues.

These people are also more susceptible to several skin infections and other skin issues. If they react to a real or suspected brown recluse spider bite, they should inform their doctor within 24 hours. Any wound that is not healing properly should be treated as soon as possible.

How long does Brown Recluse venom stay?

Ans-In most cases the venom stays for 3-5 days.

What drugs are used to treat bites from the brown recluse spider?

Ans-Cleaning and debridement of ulcerating lesions should be done daily, and topical antibiotic ointment (eg, polymyxin/bacitracin/neomycin) may be used if necessary.

What is the life span of the Brown Recluse Spider?

Ans- Average life span of brown recluse spider is 5-7 years.

What are the long-term consequences of a bite from a brown recluse spider?

Ans-If the venom becomes systemic, it can induce blood cell damage and a variety of additional repercussions that, in extreme circumstances, can lead to death from kidney failure or renal failure.

What is the appearing season of brown recluses?

Ans-From April to October these spiders can be commonly seen.

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