How to Treat Spider Bites on Kids

Four Methods:Identifying the SpiderRecognizing the Signs and Symptoms of a Spider BiteCleaning and Treating the Bite at HomeTreating the Bite with Medication

There is no doubt that the spider is among the most remarkable insects in the world and some children might be amused and amazed by them. Thankfully, spider bites are rare and uncommon. In fact, spiders do not like being around people and will only bite if they are scared or threatened. Most species of spiders are not dangerous to humans as their bites cannot completely break through the skin’s surface, and will only cause a mild reaction.[1] But if your child is bitten by a venomous spider, you must treat these bites quickly and properly to prevent serious health issues for your child.

Part 1
Identifying the Spider

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    Take your child to a doctor or the hospital immediately if you suspect a black widow or brown recluse spider bite. Bites from either of these spiders require prompt medical attention as they can trigger serious reactions so take your child in for medical care immediately and do not wait for the signs and symptoms to appear.
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    Recognize what black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders look like. There are many other venomous spiders found in the U.S., but let’s focus on the two most common species. Keep in mind that while they are both highly venomous, it is rare for either spider to attack people.
    • Black widow spiders are shiny black all over and about the size of a paper clip. They also have peculiar red circles or markings on their abdomen. A black widow’s bite will usually leave two small holes on the bite site. The black widow is feared because the strength of its venom is 15 times stronger than that of a rattlesnake.[2]
    • The brown recluse spider is sometimes called a violin spider because of its elongated legs and the violin-string mark on its back. To definitively identify this spider, you need to examine its eye. Most spiders have eight pairs of eyes, but the brown recluse spider only has six. [3]
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    Prevent your child from playing under the sink or in dark closets. Both species of spiders like warm, dark and dry places or settings that are plagued and untouched. Their bite usually feels like a light pinprick, so your child may not even feel their bite.
    • In the United States, there are about 3,000 known poisonous spiders. Though poisonous, most of them do not have fangs strong and long enough to break through the skin. In fact, a majority of these spiders also have very weak venom that do not cause life-threatening problems.[4]
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    Capture the spider that bit your child, if possible. This will help you identify the species of spider and determine how serious the bite is. But if you suspect your child has been bite by a venomous spider, skip this step and take them to the hospital.
    • Use a plastic or glass container to capture the spider. Avoid touching or holding the spider.
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    Discourage your child from playing with or around bigger spiders. Usually, the larger the spider species, the more dangerous they are. So discourage your child from playing with bigger spiders and if a bigger spider bites your child, be more cautious when treating the bite.

Part 2
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of a Spider Bite

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    Notice if your child is experiencing fever, chills, inflammation around the bite area, body rashes, and stinging pain. These are all signs of a brown recluse spider and a black widow spider bite.
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    Look for a reddish blister in the center of the bite. This is a characteristic of a brown recluse spider bite. The area surrounding the bite will also appear to have a bluish streak. The blisters will be filled with fluid that will slough off and leave a deep, enlarged ulcer on the skin.[5]
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    Check the bite area for mild swelling and pale red marks. These are symptoms of a black widow spider bite. Your child may also experience stiffness and intensifying muscle pains within 8 hours after they were bitten.[6]
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    Take your child to the nearest hospital or clinic if they are displaying signs of an allergic reaction. This is a rare, but possible scenario. If your child has an allergic reaction, histamines (substances that cause swelling and itching) can accumulate in the bite area or in other parts of their body.[7]
    • Your child may experience swelling and inflammation of their mouth or face.
    • Your child may have difficulty breathing, they may wheeze (whistling sound when they breath), and feel tightness in their chest. The histamine will cause their airways to become inflamed and more narrow, resulting in breathing difficulties.
    • Your child may have trouble speaking or swallowing. Histamines can cause a constriction of the muscles your child uses to speak and swallow.
    • Other symptoms of an allergic reaction include intense pain that extends beyond the bite area, severe abdominal cramping and pain, vomiting, excessive sweating, a rash, joint pain, and general weakness.
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    Check to make sure your child has a spider bite, rather than another insect bite. Spider bites can be easily mistaken for other bug bites, especially if you did not see the spider bite your child or find the spider. Assess the bite mark carefully and make sure it is not a bite from another insect.
    • Bed bug bites are usually painless. The bite mark will be a raised, red skin bump which can be very itchy. They appear very similar to a mosquito or flea bite.[8]
    • Tick bites have a bite area with a “bulls-eye” rash, which means the rash resembles the bulls-eye used in shooting games or darts. But the bite is usually not painful or itchy.[9]
    • Flea bites appear as a raised, red skin bump with a single pierce mark at the center. These bites can be itchy and appear in groups of 3 or 4. The rash may turn white when you press it and become bigger or spread over time.[10]
    • Bee stings cause a sharp pain that becomes dull and more of an ache over time. The bitten area will have a red skin bump with white around it.[11]
    • Lice bites will appear as small red bumps that can be very itchy and may become crusty or ooze with fluid.[12]
    • Mite bites will appear as small, raised bumps that look like pimples or acne and can be very itchy.[13]

Part 3
Cleaning and Treating the Bite at Home

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    Calm your child down by reassuring them the bite is not fatal. Once you determine your child has not been bitten by a venomous spider like a black widow or brown recluse, assure them that you are going to take care of the bite at home.
    • If your child is scared and crying, comfort them. Ask them how they got the spider bite.
    • If your child cannot yet express themselves by speaking, look for non-verbal cues. For example, you can figure out your child’s level of pain from the bite by looking at their body language and their face. If they are grimacing or crying, they are likely scared and in pain.
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    Distract your child by talking to them, or giving them their favorite toy to play with. This will help them focus on something besides the spider bite. You can also sing, hug, or kiss them to comfort and distract them.
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    Clean the bite area with antibacterial soap and running water. The spider’s fangs will have likely broken the skin. This breach could allow bacteria and harmful microorganisms to infect the bitten area. So, cleaning the bite area reduces transmission of these harmful microorganisms.
    • Avoid using alcohol to clean the bite as this can be painful for your child.
    • You can also use a betadine solution to clean the bite. Apply the medication with a cotton ball, wiping the area in a circular motion, starting from the center and going outward. This method will decrease the chance of introducing more bacteria to the area.
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    Apply a cold compress to the bite area. Cooling methods like a cool compress or an ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth or towel will minimize swelling around the bite. Also, applying something cold has the added benefit of numbing the area so your child feels less pain and itchiness around the bite.[14]
    • Only apply the cold compress for around 20 minutes. Keeping it on for longer may lead to injury on your child’s skin.
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    Raise the affected area above the heart to reduce swelling. If the bite becomes very swollen, raising it above your child’s head or heart will allow gravity to make it difficult for fluid or blood to reach the inflamed area. This will also help to drain any excess fluid from the bite.
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    If the bite is serious, apply a bandage to the area or tie a tourniquet above the bitten area. This will slow down the spread of the spider’s venom by constricting your child’s blood vessels. Once you do this, take your child to the hospital or your doctor immediately if you realize the bite is from a black widow spider or brown recluse spider.

Part 4
Treating the Bite with Medication

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    Allow the doctor to use anti-venom if your child has a venomous spider bite. If a black widow or brown recluse spider bite is causing unbearable pain or life-threatening symptoms for your child, the doctor may recommend an injection of anti-venom into their thigh muscle or through a vein.
    • Anti-venom is an antibody (proteins that kill foreign bodies) that works by neutralizing the toxins, making them harmless. However, it cannot reverse any damage that is already done to your child because of the bite.[15]
    • An injection of anti-venom can be frightening for your child so always stay with them when they get the injection. Comfort and distract them with their favorite toy or stuffed animal.
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    Be aware of the side effects of anti-venom. These can include itching, swelling of different body parts, and breathing difficulties.
    • Your child will be assessed first to see if they have an allergy to horses to avoid side effects, since the anti-venom is derived from horses.
    • The anti-venom can interact with other drugs such as atenolol, metoprolol, propranolol and bisoprolol.[16] Talk to the doctor if your child is on any of these medications before going forward with an anti-venom injection.
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    Get a prescription for opioid pain-relievers if your child has a venomous bite. Because black widow spider bites are usually very painful, over-the-counter pain-relievers are not strong enough to reduce your child’s pain.[17] Opioid pain-relievers are stronger than mild pain-relievers. They work by blocking the pain signals going to the brain so pain will not be felt at all.[18] Commonly prescribed opioid pain-relievers include:
    • Morphine sulphate (Duramorph, Infumorph). The recommended dose is 0.05 to 0.1 mg per kg given through a vein.[19]
    • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Roxicodone). The recommended dose is 0.05 to 0.15 mg/kg/dose every 4 to 6 hours given as tablets and syrups.[20]
    • Hydrocodone (Zohydro ER, Hysingla ER). The recommended dose is 3.75 to 15 ml every 4 to 6 hours given as tablets and syrups.[21]
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    Be ware of the side effects of opioid pain-relievers. These can include nausea, vomiting, constipation, dizziness and breathing problems in the case of an overdose.[22]
    • To cope up with nausea and vomiting, feed your child small frequent meals, perhaps six a day, rather than the standard three major meals.
    • Make sure your child drinks a lot of water, at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, to avoid dehydration caused by vomiting.
    • Breathing problems or respiratory depression as a result of opioid pain-relievers can be prevented if the nurse or doctor administers the correct dose.
    • These pain-relievers can interact with different drugs and substances such as acetaminophen, tramadol, aspirin, narcan, parnate, alcohol and bupropion. They can also interact with medical conditions such as diarrhea, liver disease, kidney problems and seizure disorders.[23] Let your doctor know about any other medical issues your child may have before getting a prescription for opioid pain-relievers.
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    Use paracetamol, rather than aspirin, for pain relief if your child is under 16 years old. Studies show that children who receive aspirin at a young age increase their chances of developing Reye’s syndrome, a rare but fatal disease.[24] Paracetamol is part of the acetaminophen drug family and available as an over-the-counter drug. It works by inhibiting the production of pain chemicals that lead to pain perception.
    • Special consideration should be given as you are giving a drug to a child, not to an adult. So you need to adjust dose accordingly.
    • The maximum single dose of paracetamol for children is 15 mg per weight (kg) of the child. So if your child weighs 30 kilograms, then the maximum dose is only 450 mg per day.
    • Divide this dosage and give it to your child 4-6 times a day. The medication is taken orally.[25]
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    Give your child antihistamines to help with swelling and itchiness. This medication works by blocking the production of histamine, which causes tissues to itch and swell.[26]
    • The most common prescribed antihistamine is diphenhydramine, found in brands such as Benadryl and Sominex. The recommended dose is 5 mg/kg/day administered orally as tablets and syrups. It can also be injected to a muscle or to a vein.[27]
    • Antihistamines can interact with other drugs and substances such as acetaminophen, tamoxifen, potassium chloride, caffeine, propoxyphene and aspirin. It can also interact with medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and kidney and liver disease.[28] Talk to your doctor before giving your child antihistamines if they have any of these conditions or are on any other medication.


  • Take precautionary measures to prevent your child from getting a spider bite. Make sure they wear protective clothing and shoes when playing outdoors or around indoor areas like dark closets or in the kitchen. Instruct them to avoid bushy areas when running around outside.

Sources and Citations

  1. Limmer, D., 2002
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Article Info

Categories: Stings Bites and Burns