Spider Bites

About This Disease

There are many species of spiders known in Hawaii. Spiders live in crevices, rotten wood, gardens, forests. Very few are known to bite and harm people. They are generally harmless to humans and feed on other insects and invertebrates. Also seen in Hawaii is the Latrodectus mactans (Southern Black Widow), and the Latrodectus geometricus (Brown Widow Spider). Their bites are dangerous and require a visit to the doctor. The brown widow is a little smaller than the black widow and its venom is twice as potent as the black widow's venom. However, brown widows don't inject as much venom, are more timid and don't tend to defend their web. [caption id="attachment_12747" align="aligncenter" width="380"] Black Widow spider. Photo Credit: University of Missouri[/caption]   Another common spider seen on the islands is the Phidippus audax (Bold or Daring Jumping Spider), which measures only a half inch in size. It might look harmless, but its bite is painful and may produce redness, swelling and blistering. The Brown recluse spider has not been documented as an established inhabitant of the Hawaiian Islands. Most spiders are harmless and some are important to our environment.

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms associated with spider bites vary from mild to severe. Rarely death can occur from severe bites.  Symptoms include;  
  • Itching or rash
  • Pain radiating from the site of the bite
  • Muscle pain or cramping
  • Reddish to purplish color or blister
  • Increased sweating
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • High blood pressure

Transmission

Spider bites may occur when humans come into direct contact with spiders when working in the garden, outdoors and around the home.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of spider bite is based on recent history and signs and symptoms.  Specific diagnosis may be difficult to confirm without seeing the spider bit.  Confirmation requires identification of the spider, seeing the spider bite the individual and exclusion of other possible sources.

Treatment

Wash the bite area with soap and water. Apply sterile clean dressing and a cold compress to reduce the swelling.  Identify the type of spider if possible. Monitor the bite for signs of infection and seek medical attention if necessary.  A tetanus booster may be recommended if you haven’t had one in the past 5 years.

Immunity

There is no immunity to spider bites.

Risk in Hawaii

Though rare, spider bites do occur.  Your risk of being bitten increases if you live in areas where there is clutter and debris and their habitat has been disturbed.  Black widow spiders prefer warm climates and dark, dry places.  The brown recluse spider has not been documented in Hawaii.

Prevention

  • To reduce the number of spiders near your home; seal any cracks and openings and install window screens.
  • Remove spider webs around your home.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long covered sleeves, long pants, hats, gloves and boots when handling piles of materials, lumber and rocks, etc..
  • Eliminate tall grasses and reduce debris and rubble from outdoor work areas.
  • Inspect and shake out clothing and shoes before getting dressed.

Additional Resources