Your health
Spider Bites

By John McElligott, MD

Spider bites cause thousands of worker injuries every year. All spiders have venom to paralyze their prey, but in the U.S., the venom of black widows and brown recluse spider bites are the main threat to people (and pets). Here are the kinds of questions we get from truckers.

If I get bitten by a venomous spider, what kind of symptoms will I have?

Commonly, a bite from either a black widow or a brown recluse causes pain.

With the black widow, there may not be a sign of the bite on the skin at first, but it will probably redden. The pain rapidly spreads and swelling comes next. A black widow bite can cause systemic symptoms like cramping, nausea, vomiting, sweats, shakes and headache.

A brown recluse bite is more local but can spread, leaving a large necrotic area requiring surgery if not diagnosed ASAP. The bite makes a blister and discolored area around it.

What about spider bites and cellulitis?

Cellulitis is a serious bacterial skin infection. It commonly affects your lower legs but can occur anywhere you have a skin cut, puncture, ulcer or bite. If the bacteria enter your body, through say a spider bite, you can quickly find yourself with a rash that can spread fast and that is potentially life-threatening.

The Mayo Clinic advises that it's important to identify and treat cellulitis early. You should seek emergency care if you have a red, swollen, tender rash or a rash that's changing rapidly and you have a fever. If you don't have a fever, but have a rash that's red, swollen, tender and warm - and it's expanding - you should go see your doctor or go to urgent care, preferably that day.

My co-driver is allergic to bee and wasp stings. She says she can't breathe and lips and face swell when she is stung. What should we do if she gets stung?

Go to the nearest urgent care facility or emergency room. She needs to carry an EpiPen at all times and make sure it is not expired. Old EpiPens are not effective. Unfortunately, the cost of an EpiPen is rising but these symptoms can be fatal so don't dilly-dally around. LL

John McElligott, M.D., is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. He is a certified medical examiner with the FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Everyone’s health situation is different. If you have questions regarding medical issues, consult your personal physician.