Survival first aid: How to treat spider bites
By Arsenio Toledo // Jan 29, 2020

Spiders, for the most part, are harmless. They will rather hide or run away from a threat than engage in a fight. However, if they feel cornered, they will bite any threat, including humans. Luckily, most spider bites aren't strong enough to break the skin or be fatal. If you get bitten, try and catch the spider responsible, so that your physician can identify it. If you're in a survival situation, however, where you don't have access to qualified medical attention, here's what you can do to treat spider bites yourself. (h/t to


Common spider bites

Most spider bites will come from common, non-venomous spiders. The best thing you can to do is to wash the affected area with soap and water to avoid infection and wait it out. If there's pain or if you want to be extra cautious, here are several home remedies you can apply:

  • Rest and elevate the affected body part.
  • Apply ice to the bite area for 10 minutes on and 10 minutes off.
  • Apply a few drops of pure or diluted lavender essential oil.
  • Create a potato poultice from potato shreds and place them in between layers of gauze on the bite area.
  • Apply witch hazel to the affected area.
  • Apply several drops of wintergreen essential oil diluted in a carrier oil.
  • Lather the area with aloe vera gel.
  • Apply an activated charcoal poultice for one to two hours, twice a day.

Black widow bites

Black widow spider bites are, fortunately, rarely fatal in healthy adults, and without medical assistance, the symptoms may self-resolve within hours or days. That said, black widow bites are much more serious in young children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. Regardless of age and physical health, however, urgent medical treatment is required.

Black widow venom contains a potent neurotoxin known as latrotoxin. It is the main toxin that causes latrodectism, an illness caused by the venom of spiders in the genus Latrodectus, which includes the black widow.

Black widow bites will make you feel intense pain in the bite area, followed by a variety of symptoms, like shooting and generalized pain – particularly in the chest and abdomen – muscle spasms, difficulty breathing, nausea, chills, headaches, sweating and fever. Blood pressure may also increase. The symptoms can wax and wane for the next week after a bite.

While latrodectism can disappear naturally after several days, the pain may be too unbearable, especially if you're fighting for your life in a post-SHTF situation. Applying aloe vera gel to the area can soothe the skin and help the bite heal faster. Once the aloe vera gel dries, use either lavender or bergamot essential oil to deal with the pain. These essential oils can be used either through aromatherapy or applied directly to the skin after being diluted with a carrier oil. Furthermore, rose oil can relax clenched muscles and chamomile oil can reduce irritation and inflammation on the skin.

Brown recluse bites

The initial bite of the brown recluse spider will be painless. Symptoms will come within the first eight hours of the bite. These include pain at the site and a red or purple ring or target pattern developing around the bite. You may also get headaches, chills, nausea, vomiting, a fever and in rare cases, the skin around the bite may become necrotic. Fortunately, bites from the brown recluse rarely happen.

If you do get bitten by a brown recluse, you must wash the bite area as quickly as possible with soap and water. Elevate the bite are and apply an ice pack for 10 minutes to lessen the swelling and the pain. The bite and its side effects will pass with time and are rarely lethal, although if you have the option of getting proper medical treatment, do so immediately.

The essential oils that can be used for black widow bites, lavender and bergamot, can also be used for brown recluse bites. You can also apply a poultice to the area of Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea or activated charcoal moistened with lavender essential oil. Apply the poultice for several hours, for at least two to three times daily.

The best thing you can do is to avoid getting spider bites altogether. Spiders prey on insects and they only bite humans when they feel threatened. To avoid being bitten, set up sticky traps and spray your house with natural spider repellent. It will also be immensely helpful to keep your house generally clutter-free, so that spiders will be less likely to settle in. If you're unsure of what kind of spider bit you, or if you feel like the spider bite is getting too serious, consult with your physician immediately.

Sources include: 1 2

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