How Are Black Widow And Brown Recluse Bites Treated By Medical Professionals? And Why Are These Treatments Controversial?

The southern black widow and the brown recluse spider species both dwell in the state of Louisiana, and while these two species are widely recognized as being the only two medically significant spider species in the United States, many researchers have come to suspect that bite cases are over represented in medical literature. For example, one research study that analyzed 600 suspected black widow and brown recluse bite cases were actually completely separate medical conditions that had nothing to do with spider bites. The majority of spider bites can be identified by a single lesion that can be successfully treated by sanitizing the wound, applying cold packs, and possibly administering a tetanus booster vaccine.

While a black widow antivenom exists in many US hospitals, only children, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals warrant antivenom therapy following a black widow bite. Since black widow bites sometimes produce systemic symptoms, like muscle spasms, intravenous benzodiazepines are administered to many bite victims, as well as narcotic opioids to manage pain. If a healthy adult continues to experience serious black widow bite symptoms for a period of several hours, an antivenom may be used, but black widow antivenom is only effective 48 hours following envenomation. The use of black widow antivenom must be used sparingly, as some individuals may experience a hypersensitive reaction to antivenom. While the use of black widow antivenom may be somewhat controversial due to its possible adverse effects, there exists a clear cut medical procedure for treating black widow bites, but no such procedure currently exists for treating brown recluse bites.

At the moment, there does not exist any published medical literature on how to address brown recluse bites, leaving the form of treatment entirely up to the individual doctors. Many medical professionals believe that aggressive brown recluse bites can be more harmful than helpful for patients, and surgically removing tissue from a bite wound simply because the tissue may become necrotic puts patients at an unnecessary risk. Many doctors treat brown recluse bites with nothing more than antihistamines, while other doctors choose to use a drug named “dapsone” due to its possible anti-necrotic effects. However, dapsone’s anti-necrotic effects have not been proven, and this drug can cause the destruction of red blood cells in some patients.

Have you ever visited a hospital to address a spider bite?


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