Re: [gardeners] Wednesday

Allen and Judy Merten (
Tue, 20 Oct 1998 03:46:22 -0500

Hi Bambi,
    The classic Brown Recluse bite, full dose of venom, is the easiest to
recognize. It will be a raised, obvious bite site, red, with a whitish looking
center where the venom was injected. There will be peripheral swelling. The most
swelling will be in the center of the site with the swelling tapering off as the
distance from the site increases. In a short period of time the original red
site will start to turn purple or black with the peripheral swelling turning
more vividly red. The bite site will continue to grow in size and darken in
color except for the very center which will show a puss like pocket. Soon the
center of the site shows signs of cratering. The peripheral areas will show
signs of tissue damage, or change from normal skin texture and appearance. The
whole process continues expanding and taking on a more severe appearance until
finally the damage stops, limited I suppose to the bodies ability to fight the
venom and or treatment by medical personnel.
    A non classic bite will be deceptive in that the progression will be
appreciably slower. If the spider has used part of its venom recently for
feeding or has bitten through clothing limiting the amount of venom actually
injected the symptoms will be less at first. The progression towards necrotic
tissue will be slower but once that stage has been reached it will be obviously
a Brown Recluse bite. The problem is that unless the victim or the doctor has
seen BR bites, recognition may come too late for effective treatment.
    There are several spiders more commonly encountered that will bite, causing
a wound that may look like the BR. If you suspect that a bite is from a spider,
any spider, seek treatment. You never know which one is responsible for the bite
unless you see the spider. Treatment started as early as possible may save
severe tissue damage to the point of losing a finger or reducing the amount of
necrotic tissue that has to be removed. Gangrene is a definite possibility.
    The doctor who treated my son Tim in the ER insisted that the bite was from
a fire ant!! This particular doctor had received a grant to study Brown Recluse
bites. However he had never seen one other than the pictures in a book. Later I
saw the pictures in his book. The pictures were of the" worst case" classic
type bite. He then had the opinion that all Brown Recluse bites had to look like
his pictures. Each picture in his book had captions under them that said after
so many hours the bite looks thus, etc. I finally convinced another surgeon to
admit my son after comparing a snake bite of a large snake that had a full load
of venom to a smaller snake, or one that had fed recently, i.e. using up some of
the venom. The next morning during rounds the doctors became convinced that
indeed it was a Brown Recluse bite and marveled at the change. Luckily, Tim had
been receiving anti venom and another drug to reduce the tissue damage in
addition to antibiotics, for at least 12 hours. The doctors removed some
necrotic tissue about a week or 10 days later. The treatment prevented the venom
from affecting the tissues in the knee joint itself.
    The best protection you can give yourself and family from Brown Recluse
bites is in prevention. Turn the covers back on your bed so that you can see if
you have company. Shake out every piece of clothing that you take out of your
closet, every time, before you put it on. They will also be found in shoes. They
are especially likely to be found in clothing that has been stored, or that suit
or dress that you use only for funerals and such. If you have a guest bedroom,
put the least amount of bed clothes on that bed untill it is going to be used.
Check the pillow cases and the pillows and  surface of the mattress. Check the
seams inside out. Turn the mattress over and check that side before putting on
new bed covers. If you have time before your guests need the bed, wash and dry
the pillow cases, sheets, etc, instead of taking them off the shelf. This all
seems like a big ol' pain in the uhhu but it doesnot compare to the pain and
grief of someone getting bit. One other thing. Check under the bed for Black
Widows. Especially if the bed is against a wall instead of out in the room.
Sometimes you will find one. That vacant bed has been the undisturbed Happy
Hunting Ground of that Black Widow. It will be P.O.'ed to find someone
    I hope that I haven't given you nightmares. I sincerely hope that you find
this informative. Most of all, if this keeps you or a family member from getting
bitten, the inconvience is more than worth it. Since we have learned to do all
this it has been 5 yrs since any family member has been bitten. Thank God. The
list of family members that had been bitten by a Brown Recluse was 4. Black
Widow bites were 2. The last snake bite was more than 60yrs ago, my Dad as a
boy. He preaches snake safety like I preach about these spiders.
Bastrop Co.,Tx
Wildscape #1071
Zone 8

Michael & Bambi Cantrell wrote:

> Hi Allen,
> Just for my own information, what does a classic and non classic Brown
> Recluse
> bite look like?  I've seen them when they were a few days old, but no fresh
> ones.  What in particular would I be looking for?
> I'm not doubting what you say, I just want to learn some of what you know.
> :-)
> I love learning from other people.  Especially if I learn from their
> mistakes and
> don't have to make them myself.  <BSEG>
> Thanks,
> Bambi
> >. Son #2 had shown me the bite, I
> >recognized it as a Brown Recluse bite 'cause I have been bitten twice. So
> after I
> >came home from LL board meeting Judy and I took Tim back to the ER. I
> cussed and
> >fussed for about 3 hrs with the drs. before they admitted him. Bite was on
> the knee
> >and venom can cause tissue damage to the joint. The bite site didn't look
> like the
> >classic Brown Recluse bite, probably didn't get a full dose of venom. Two
> days after
> >the bite they decided it was indeed a BR bite and had to remove some tissue
> at the
> >bite site. Some ant bite!!
> >    I had Dengue Fever after Hurricane Debra in '58 in Galveston Co.,Tx.
> Not a
> >pleasant experience!
> >Allen
> >Bastrop Co.,Tx
> >
> >
> >Barbara J. Davis wrote:
> >
> >> Hello Allen,
> >>
> >> Just this morning I was out in the damp grass looking over my newly
> >> planted salad seed beds---nothing coming up yet---and I noticed there
> >> were mosquitoes buzzing around.  I kept slapping until I hurried into
> >> the house.  That's one thing, I guess, we can be thankful for this
> >> summer.  The drought and excessive heat has discouraged mosquitoes.  I
> >> didn't know there was Dengue Fever in Texas, although with mosquitoes
> >> one can expect anything.  My husband and I both had Dengue Fever at the
> >> same time when we were in Laos.  We were hospitalized for over a week
> >> so I wouldn't think any doctor would consider it an inconsequential
> >> disease.  It took us a month to recuperate.
> >>
> >> Barbara Davis       zone 7/8       southwest of Fort Worth, TX
> >>
> >> Allen wrote to George:
> >>
> >> > Watch out for the mosquitos as well. Many times they can infect you
> with
> >> > Dengue(sp?) Fever. It was known by the old timers a "Break Bone Fever".
> The old
> >> > timers called it that because along with a fever came bone pain so bad
> it felt
> >> > like broken bones. Most of the younger Drs. don't realize the symptoms
> are
> >> > similar to a bad case of the flu, and don't diagnose it.
> >> >     Allen
> >> >     Bastrop Co.,Tx
> >> >     Zone 8
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >