Survival typically presumes our being closer to nature. Unfortunately, nature is not always friendly. As we hike, fish and hunt more, we are exposed to various predators and venomous critters. Bug bites are common in the warm months for people in survival situations, mosquitoes, ticks and spiders being the common offenders. Although such cases are fairly rare in North America, spider bites can be fatal.
So, how do you recognize spider bites in the field and more importantly, treat them to prevent further health problems? There are a couple tricks to recognizing bites and they are simpler than you think
- Become familiar with the most common spiders in your area. It is a good idea to laminate and catalogue their pictures, bite pictures, symptoms that people experience after the bite, etc. Write down how large the spider is supposed to be and how large the bite is supposed to be.
- Use a magnifying glass to study your bite if possible. Do you see two districts bit marks from the spider? If not, it may be a mosquito bite. If you can visually confirm that this is a spider bite, next thing you can do is figure out which spider bit you. Unfortunately, there is no way to do that with 100% accuracy with primitive hand tools. You can, however, use how you feel as a gauge. If you begin developing symptoms, you have likely been bit by a poisonous spider.
- The best way to diagnose a poisonous spider bite is by keeping track of the symptoms and when you first begin showing the symptoms. A good way of keeping track is using a diagnostic journal. Write down the date and time you first noticed the bite, as well as dates and times you notice the onset of each consecutive symptom. Use the data to identify the bite. Here are some pointers.
Most spider bites are harmless. They may sting and itch, but that’s about it.
Tarantula bite will produce painful stinging and will feel like a wasp or a bee bite. The good news about a tarantula bite is that despite how scary people make them sound or look, their bites are not awfully poisonous to humans.
Brown recluse and hobo spider bites are similar and both cause tissue damage. You won’t generally feel a brown recluse bite, but you will notice the affected area getting red and the redness spreading rapidly. The poison of a brown recluse spider will cause the tissue to begin dying and you will see a black spot of dead tissue form in the middle of the red area. This spot is called eschar. As it grows, it may affect both superficial layers and deep layers of the skin. It is possible that you’ll need skin grafts. The bite of a hobo spider causes less tissue damage, but also takes a long time to heal.
Bites from a black widow spider cause muscle cramps and can elevate blood pressure and cause you to feel like you are having a heart attack. The poison can also cause nausea, vomiting and seizures. You can recognize a black widow bite by the 1 or 2 typical red fang marks, accompanied by tenderness and pain. Bites themselves can range in pain from none to stabbing.
Treating poisonous spider bites involves 3 steps:
- Apply an ice pack as soon as possible to prevent the poison from spreading an affecting more tissue.
- Keep the affected area clean and covered to prevent infection.
- Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, a combination or a natural remedy for pain.
Preventing spider bites is the best strategy. Wear pants and long sleeves when you are hiking and keep an eye on the spiders in your home. Always carry a portable ice pack in your medical kit when you are outdoors.
To your survival,