Most spider bites only rarely cause serious problems. You may have redness, swelling and pain in the bite area. Bites from black widow, brown recluse and hobo spiders are more serious. They may cause trouble breathing, a severe headache and painful muscle cramps that require immediate medical care. You can take steps to prevent spider bites.
Most spiders are harmless and rarely bite people. All spiders make venom (a poison), but most spiders’ fangs are too small to puncture human skin.
Spiders are arachnids (not insects). They’re in the same class as scorpions, mites and ticks. All of these arachnids have eight legs. Spiders perform a vital function by eating insects that can destroy crops.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
There are at least 60 different spider species in America, but only a few pose any danger to humans. These more dangerous spiders include:
Experts aren’t sure how many people get spider bites every year. Most of the time, you may not know a spider bit you. Or you may think an insect bit you, instead of a spider.
Bites from black widows or brown recluses are most dangerous to children (because of their small size) and the elderly (who may be frail or in poor health). In the U.S., fewer than three people die every year from a spider bite. Most of these deaths occur in children.
Anyone can accidentally come into contact with a spider and get bitten. Still, some people may be more at risk because their jobs or actions put them in closer contact with places where spiders live. People at risk include:
Spider bite symptoms vary depending on the type of spider.
Black widow spider bites cause an immediate, sharp, pinprick-like pain. The bite area then becomes numb. Other signs of a black widow spider bite include:
Bites from brown recluse spiders aren’t immediately painful or noticeable. Instead, you might feel pain an hour after the bite. Other signs of a brown recluse spider bite include:
Hobo spider bites rarely cause pain. Signs of a hobo spider bite include:
Seeing the spider is the best way to confirm both a bite and the type of spider. Otherwise, there isn’t a way to test for a spider bite or determine what bit you.
Your healthcare provider may make a diagnosis based on symptoms. Your provider may also send a sample of fluid from a blister to a lab to check for skin infections that cause similar symptoms, such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Some brown recluse bites cause a skin ulcer (wound). If the wound doesn’t heal, you might need surgery.
Black widow bites are the most serious. Children under 16 and people older than 60 may need hospitalization to treat:
Spider bite treatments vary depending on symptoms. Treatment for black widow spider bites includes muscle relaxers, sedatives and pain medicines.
Treatment for brown recluse and hobo spider bites include:
You should never attempt to suck out or remove venom from a spider bite. Instead, follow these steps:
To protect yourself and your family from spider bites:
Most people with spider bites experience mild symptoms like pain and swelling. These symptoms gradually go away with at-home care.
You may have more painful and severe symptoms if a black widow, brown recluse or hobo spider bites you. With proper medical care, most people recover from venomous spider bites.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
If you have concerns about a spider bite, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Spiders get a bad rap, but they provide a helpful service by reducing the number of insects on the planet that could destroy crops and land. Spiders really don’t want to bite you. They only bite when they’re trapped or feel the need to defend themselves. Most spider bites are harmless. Your healthcare provider can offer suggestions for alleviating symptoms at home. You should seek immediate medical attention if a black widow, brown recluse or hobo spider bites you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/08/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.