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Treating spider bites in children

Spiders rarely attack, and when they do, bites are often moderate. Learn about spider bites in children and how to identify and treat them.

Spiders may appear frightening, but bites on children are uncommon and rarely dangerous. In fact, spiders prefer solitude and will only bite if they feel threatened (arachnophobes, rejoice!).

If your child gets bitten by a spider, expect a similar reaction to a bee sting, such as redness and swelling, and make them feel better with these suggestions for identifying and treating spider bites in children.

Childhood spider bite symptoms

The most frequent signs of a house spider bite include redness, itching, pain, and a skin lump. However, some spiders are dangerous. Probably the most infamous South African spider species are the potentially lethal black button spider and the less dangerous brown button spider.

Black Button spider

The abdomen of these spiders is black with crimson bands of longitudinal stripes. As the spider matures, it moults and loses its red pattern, which is frequently replaced by white spots. Adult spiders are completely black. The egg sacs are rounded and smooth. Males are tiny, measuring between 3 and 6 mm, while females have a body length of 7 to 16 mm.

Good to know: There are 31 species of black button spiders in the world, eight of which are in Africa.

Brown Button spider

The brown button is distinguished by the orange-to-red hourglass beneath its spherical abdomen, which may be grey, white, brown, or black. The top abdomen bears circular geometric decorations, and the joints of the brown legs are dark. The egg sacs are spiked and white. Males have a body length of 4-7mm while females measure 8-14mm.

Good to know: Button spiders are widespread in South Africa and typically inhabit quiet, dark places. Most spider bites occur when the spiders are disturbed in their hiding spot. The button spider that is commonly found in sheds and around windowsills is the less poisonous house button spider.

Violin spider

Violin spiders are widespread in South Africa, but human interaction is uncommon. Typically, brownish with dark patterns and a violin-shaped cephalothorax, these insects have a violin-shaped head and thorax. The violin spider runs between 8 and 19mm. Most attacks occur at night when the victim is sleeping. Their venom is cytotoxic, meaning it damages tissue. The bites are often minor and painless, but within a few hours, the site develops a blister and skin-only necrosis.

Typically, skin lesions are misinterpreted as spider-borne Cytotoxic envenomations. Before incorrectly labelling it as spider bites, alternative reasons must be ruled out. However, untreated bites can result in infections, septicaemia, and necrosis, necessitating surgery to remove the dead tissue. Go to the doctor promptly if you observe skin lesions or ulcers that are not the result of a recognised accident and worsen. A cream or course of antibiotics may be necessary.

Typical spider bite symptoms

  • Pain (which may start within the first several hours after being bitten)
  • Itching
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Redness (or a purple hue) around the bite
  • Soreness around the bite

Treating spider bites in kids

If a spider has bitten your child, you may be able to administer treatment at home. Here are a few measures to accelerate the healing process and prevent infection:

  • Wash the area with soap and water multiple times per day until the bite has healed.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to your child’s hands and keep them as clean as possible.
  • Apply an ice pack or a cool, moist cloth to the affected area to alleviate discomfort and swelling.
  • An age-appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen will assist if your child complains that the bite hurts or is fussier than normal.

When to be concerned after a spider bite

If your child develops signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, pus, or a warm sensation around the bite, contact your doctor, or go to the emergency department.

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