How to Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites

Two Parts:Identifying a Recluse Spider BiteTreating a Recluse Spider Bite

In the United States, most spiders you come across are harmless, but the brown recluse spider is an exception. The brown recluse spider is aptly named because it behaves like a recluse. This nocturnal spider likes to hide in dark places where it will not easily be disturbed, like under porches, in closets, or in wood piles. Its important to identify a brown recluse spider and its venomous bite, which can cause more severe symptoms than other spiders. It’s bite has been to known to be fatal, especially for children.[1]

Part 1
Identifying a Recluse Spider Bite

  1. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 1
    Find the spider that bit you, if possible. If you can, try to trap the spider that bite you to determine if it is a recluse spider. You can also try to remember the appearance of the spider that bite you. A recluse spider is tan all over, with legs attached to the upper part of its body.[2]
    • This spider gets its nickname, "fiddleback", because of the unique violin-shaped marking on the back of the upper body part. The lower body part doesn't have any markings.
    • A recluse spider has three pairs of eyes across the violin-shaped marking, rather than the two rows of four eyes that most U.S. spiders have.
  2. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 2
    Recognize the symptoms of a brown recluse bite. When you are first bitten, you may not feel anything. Within hours of the bite, you may feel mild burning or irritation in or around the bite wound. You may also have the following symptoms:[3]
    • Severe swelling and pain at the bite site.
    • A blister may develop that is blue in the center and ringed by redness, like a bull’s eye. The blister may then burst, and the area will enlarge into an ulcer that extends deep into the tissue.
    • A pimple-like lesion with yellow or green pus.
    • A rash around the bite site that itches.
    • Your urine may appear dark in color.
    • You may also experience fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, seizures, or joint pain.
    • Like other spider bites, a recluse (fiddleback) spider bite will leave a small red mark. Unlike other spider bites, soon after the bite, a small white blister will appear and the tissue around the bite will become hard. The bite will then turn into a lesion that is blue-gray or blue-white, with ragged edges surrounded by redness. If left untreated, the skin around the recluse spider bite can become gangrenous, and develop into a large open wound.[4]
  3. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 3
    Understand where these spiders are often found. Brown recluse spiders like dark, sheltered areas, like under porches, in woodpiles, basements, closets, and under sinks. Consider if you were in any of these areas when you were bitten.[5]
    • Though the brown recluse spider can be found all over the United States, it is commonly found in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama; most of Mississippi, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Tennessee and Kentucky; the southern portions of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana; northern Georgia and eastern Texas.[6]

Part 2
Treating a Recluse Spider Bite

  1. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 4
    Try to see a doctor the same day you received the bite. If possible, bring the spider who bite you in to the doctor’s office. Identification of the spider will help your doctor diagnose you properly.[7]
    • You can proceed with home care treatment once you are bitten. But you should try to see a doctor or medical professional as soon as possible after you are bitten as the bite could be serious or fatal.
  2. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 5
    Clean the bite area with soap and rinse with water. Use a clean cloth and dip it in mild soap and room temperature water. Clean the bite area in small circular motions.[8]
  3. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 6
    Reduce swelling by placing a cool compress over the bite. Wrap ice in a clean towel or put ice in a plastic bag and then wrap it in a clean washcloth or towel.[9]
    • Place the compress over the bite for 10 minutes and then take it off for 10 minutes. Repeat this process in 10 minute intervals.
    • If the person who is bitten has circulatory problems, reduce the time the compress is on the bite site.
  4. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 7
    Elevate the bite area. This will slow the spread of the venom from the bite site to the rest of your body and reduce any swelling of the bite area.[10]
    • Wrap a compression bandage above the bite to reduce pain and swelling. Raise the arm, hand, leg or foot with the bite above your heart by propping it up on a pillow. Make sure the bandage is snug, but is not cutting off your circulation.
  5. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 8
    Do not apply heat to the area. This will only accelerate the tissue destruction around the bite and increase swelling and pain. You should also never attempt to remove the spider venom with a suction device or cut out the affected tissue.[11]
    • Avoid applying any steroid creams to the bite area, such as hydrocortisone cream.
  6. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 9
    Take over-the-counter pain medications. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen or naproxen will help reduce the swelling and pain.[12].
    • You can also take an antihistamine to alleviate any itchiness around the bite area.
  7. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 10
    Talk to your doctor about medical treatment for the bite. At your doctor’s appointment, or in emergency care, confirm the bite is a recluse spider bite and allow the doctor to treat the bite. After the initial evaluation, your doctor may prescribe the following treatments:[13]
    • A Tetanus immunization shot.
    • Antibiotics, if there are signs of infection in the wound.
    • Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, to help with itchiness.
    • Pain medications.
  8. Image titled Identify and Treat Recluse (Fiddleback) Spider Bites Step 11
    Follow up with the doctor in three to four days. Schedule a follow up appointment with the doctor to confirm you do not have any infections or complications due to the recluse spider bite. It's important to monitor your recovery so the bite does not get worse or become infected.[14]
    • If there is damaged tissue around the bite, talk to your doctor about having it surgically removed.[15]


  • Brown recluse spiders are most likely to bite when they are squeezed between your flesh and another object. To prevent bites, keep beds away from the wall and bed skirts off the floor. Shake shoes, skates, garden gloves, and baseball mitts before putting them on to avoid getting bitten.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice
  • Clean washcloth or towel
  • Compression bandage
  • Pain reliever
  • Antihistamine

Article Info

Categories: Stings Bites and Burns