Spider bite could mean big trouble
May 28, 2010
- Small bite leads to big trouble for Sgt. Scott Paul at Fort Sill, Okla.
- Brown recluse spider bite swells writer's face.
- Recovery takes six to eight weeks.
Should you pick up the newspaper at night and see something scurry across the floor it could be a brown recluse spider, the second installment of the Oklahoma creepy critters series. He's likely out for a meal, a common practice with this spider.
Because this spider may be found anywhere inside or outside the house, it should be considered a dangerous year-round adversary.
Sgt. 1st Class Scott Paul became acquainted with this arachnid, the hard way, during a little manual labor in the dead of winter. What started as a nuisance led to days of increasing pain from an imperceptible bite and ultimately more than a week of recovery.
While disassembling cubicle walls to move to their office, a co-worker noticed a spider on Paul's face. Without a thought or concern, Paul brushed it off where it sat below his left eye and proceeded with the job at hand.
"I didn't feel a bite or anything initially, but about 45 minutes later my eye began to itch real bad," said Paul, a senior writer and instructor of unit training for Headquarters Detachment, U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence.
By the next day, he noticed, where the spider had been, a small pimple forming that continued to grow into the following day. Three days after the bite, Paul's wife commented that his eye was starting to swell up. By evening, he could hardly see out of the eye. The couple then went to the emergency room for medical care and received antibiotics to treat the problem.
Throughout this time Paul said the pain wasn't too bad. That changed significantly the following morning. Waking up, Paul realized he no longer could see out of his left eye and so they returned to the emergency room with pain that had kicked in to a full-scale 10 out of 10.
The hospital staff admitted Paul for strong antibiotic treatment over the next three days followed by an additional two days recovery at home. Paul said the left side of his body felt numb to the touch while in the hospital. And, though the symptoms improved, his pain still held at a 7 of 10 when he returned home.
Fortunately, there were no long-term effects of the ordeal. Still, for Paul it was a nightmare he doesn't care to experience again. Since being bitten, he learned to recognize a brown recluse and takes the time to check out his surroundings, if for no other reason than just to "save face."
"At one point my face was so swollen and distorted you wouldn't recognize me," he said.
Should professional help be necessary to control these less desirable creatures, pest management on post is handled by Picerne Military Housing for military family housing residents. For single Soldiers living in dormitories and office workers, VT Griffin manages pest control. James Knight, VT Griffin supervisor of pest management, said Griffin works with preventive medicine personnel to survey facilities to determine if spraying is needed or housekeeping alone can control pests.
Monitor boards, or sticky traps, may be used for a period of time to assess the prevalence of pests. Surveys are always conducted before any chemical is used.
The recluse is light tan to dark brown in color, and as an adult, about 0.5 inches in length with long, delicate legs. Also known as the fiddleback spider, its main distinguishing feature is a violin-shaped dark marking immediately behind the head.
Recluse spiders prefer warm, dry locations. During the day they usually hide out in quiet, undisturbed locations. In homes, spiders may be found in any room and under furniture. They may hide in old clothes, shoes, storage boxes, stacks of paper, corners and crevices as well as behind pictures and on the undersides of tables and chairs. This spider also lives outdoors under rocks and bark and is frequently found in barns, storage sheds and garages. Being one that appreciates going out to grab a bite to eat, about an hour or two after dark recluses will leave their hiding places in search of food.
Bites can happen any time day or night. The recluse is not an aggressive spider and normally bites only when pressure is applied to it. People are often bitten when they put on clothing or shoes where a spider is hiding, when they roll over on a spider in bed or when they clean a storage area that the spider is inhabiting.
When the spider bites, it injects venom into the wound. This venom varies from almost none to a full dose depending on the bite site, the length of time the fangs are in the wound and the quantity of venom injected.
Individuals react differently to the bite; some people may not be aware of it for two or three hours, while others may have an immediate painful reaction. A stinging sensation is usually followed by intense pain. Within eight hours, a small puss-filled blister usually rises, and a large area around the bite becomes red and swollen. The victim may become restless and feverish and have difficulty sleeping. The local pain is frequently quite intense, and the skin area surrounding the bite remains red and hard to the touch for some time. The tissue affected locally by the venom is killed and gradually sloughs away, exposing underlying muscle. Skin grafts are often necessary to repair severe damage.
Although death by spider bites is rare, consequences range from minor to severe depending on the victim.
Healing takes place slowly and may take six to eight weeks. Without prompt medical attention the result of a bite can be a sunken scar ranging from the size of a penny to a half-dollar. In case of a bite, the victim should consult a physician immediately, and, if possible, the spider which caused the bite should be captured for positive identification. Specific antivenin is not available for treatment.
Spider traps are an effective way to reduce these pests. Sticky traps provide the added benefit of being able to see the spider and so identify whether or not it is harmful. In Oklahoma, only the recluse and black widow are considered dangerous to most people.