Tarantula spider bite
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This article describes the effects of a tarantula spider bite.
This is for information only, and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
The venom of tarantulas found in the United States is not considered dangerous, but may cause allergic reactions.
Tarantulas are found across the southern and southwestern regions of the United States. Some people keep them as pets.
If a tarantula bites you, you may have pain at the site of the bite similar to a bee sting. The area of the bite may become warm and red.
If you are allergic to tarantula venom, the following symptoms may occur:
- Breathing difficulty
- Cardiovascular collapse (an extreme reaction)
- Eyelid puffiness
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Skin rash
- Swelling at the site of the bite
- Swelling of the lips and throat
Seek immediate medical help.
Wash the area with soap and water. Place ice (wrapped in a washcloth or other covering) on the site of the sting for 10 minutes and then off for 10 minutes. Repeat this process. If the patient has blood flow problems, reduce the time the ice is used to prevent possible skin damage.
Before Calling Emergency
Determine the following information:
- Patient's age, weight, and condition
- Type of spider, if possible
- Time of the bite
- Area of the body that was bitten
The National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) can be called from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
They will instruct you if it is necessary to take the patient to the hospital.
If possible, bring the spider to the emergency room for identification.
See: Poison control center - emergency number
What to Expect at the Emergency Room
The health care provider will measure and monitor the patient's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. The wound and symptoms will be treated as appropriate.
The patient may receive:
- Blood and urine tests
- Breathing support, if needed
- Chest x-ray
- EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
- Fluids through a vein (by IV)
- Medications to treat symptoms
Death in a normally healthy individual is uncommon. Recovery usually takes about a week
Wear protective clothing whenever possible when travelling through terrain which is known to harbor these spiders. Do not stick your hands or feet in their nests or in their preferred habitats, namely, under logs or underbrush, or other damp, moist areas.
Clark RF, Schneir AB. Arthropod bites and stings. In: Tintinalli JE, Kelen GD, Stapczynski JS, Ma OJ, Cline DM, eds. Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 6th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2004:chap 194.
Boyer LV, Greta J, Binford GJ, Degan JA. Spider bites. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 52.
- Last reviewed on 10/20/2013
- Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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