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Bite Information
MyBite#: 1207
Date Bitten: 7/1/2003 Body Part: Hand
City: Sawyer State/Country: Michigan
Found Spider: No Severity of Bite: 0 - N/A
Recurring Bite: No Pet Story: No
Medications: Tetracycline
Homeopathic: Natrum muriaticum; Natrum sulphuricum 
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Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Brown Recluse Spider Bite

I woke up on July 1, 2003 with two small marks on my right wrist. Each mark became slightly inflammed and indurated but caused me no pain. The more distal of the two bites proceeded to form a "blood blister". It was only painful when my children were playing with me and managed to rub or scratch it. I was getting ready to take a two week wilderness canoe trip at the end of July and hoped to have it healed up prior to leaving--there are deer and wood ticks in the Sawyer area and there was a slight possibility that the lesion might be Lyme's Disease (though I had not seen any adult tick or nymph attached in the area). So I went to a local clinic and discussed the possibility with an M.D. who examined me and prescribed a tetracylcine to "cover me."

The lesion, however, did not resolve, and, in fact, continued to grow until it got to be the size of a half dollar. At one point I did lance and drain it. Only blood came out--there was no apparent pus/wbc's. The blister then resealed itself and filled up with blood again. It remained with me throughout my canoe trip. I just avoided scratching it and left it alone.

When I got back home in mid-August, I called up a homeopath to see if he might give me something to resolve it (given that the allopaths had no apparent solutions). He prescribed a regimen of Natrum muriaticum. Within two days the lesion/blister changed from uniformly purplish to having a few very black areas. Within several more days it broke open and released a great deal of blood and (this time) pus.

I began using hot compresses to help the lesion drain and for the first time (now that it was "flat") used dressings to cover it. I also began cleaning the open wound with hydrogen peroxide and then applying neosporin. At the time of this writing (9/2/03) that wound is still not completely healed. I have stopped using both hydrogen peroxide (which I believe was causing more tissue damage than any good it was doing) and the "triple antibiotic ointment." I continue to use hot compresses when fluid accumulates under the now "broken" skin.

When I reported what had happened to the homeopath using the first remedy, he put me on another regimen using Natrum sulfuricum. Now, to make things really weird, the second (more proximal) lesion, which up until this time had only shown a bit of redness along with induration--and had basically been "dormant"-- began to accumulate blood (this is two months after the bites had taken place!). It is now quite elevated, is approaching the size of a quarter and has several black areas in it.

Why the two month delay on the second bite?? These lesions are not from ticks or chiggers--their color, persistence, and failure to heal is consistent with all I have read about brown recluse bites. While Sawyer is in SW Michigan and is supposedly about 100 miles north of the brown recluse habitat, one wonders if "global warming" isn't allowing these spiders to extend their range?

By the way, I am a biology teacher, and am a big fan of spiders. This one unusual episode should in no way cast aspersions on the rest of the arachnid clan. They're good guys. My guess is that I rolled over on a recluse while sleeping and it defended itself (as it has a right to do). I will attempt to "shoot" you some digital photos of the lesions from my school's computer lab.

Any suggestions on accelerating the healing process would be appreciated. Thanks.
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It's now November 28, 2003, about 5 months since I was bitten. While the first bite on my right wrist resolved itself (though quite a bit of scar tissue has been left behind), the second bite has remained discolored--especially three small "blue" areas.

I got an e-mail through this web site from a lady in Oklahoma who suggested using electrical stimulation to the area and gave me a web site of a doctor who has had success with the procedure. The idea is that the spider "toxins" are, in fact, digestive enzymes which apparently have a very long "staying power". The idea behind using electrical stimulation to the area is that the electric shocks can damage the three dimensional structure of the proteins (denature them), rendering them harmless. Sounds as good as anything I've heard so far.

My wife and I have an electrical apparatus (Therastim) which is used by trainers and physicians to accelerate the healing of injured tissues. I put the electrodes on the site of the bite and "zapped" it for about 30 minutes at the maximum power I could tolerate (without putting my hand in spasm).

About a day later the "wound" opened up again and began draining. Holes opened up above each of the discolored areas. Initially the fluid looked like pus; it now looks more like blood. Hopefully this is a sign that it may be (finally?) resolving and that the electricity had some impact.

Interestingly, in the November 26, 2003 addition of the Chicago Tribune (on the front page!) there was an article about a professor, Ken Cramer, at Monmouth College in Illinois, who is attempting to solicit assistance from people throughout the State to hunt for and then send him "recluse spiders" (most of which turn out to be other species). He wants to figure out how north the recluse can really be found. A similar story about Cramer was on the local evening news. His web site is http://department.monm.edu.biology/recluse-project/ .

While I was bitten in southern Michigan,I've lived in the Chicago area for a long time and have never seen anything in the Chicago papers about recluse spiders at this latitude. The article, in fact, still maintained that recluse spiders have not been found as far north as Chicago. Still, I wonder if other reports of spider bites like mine have been circulating among entomologists and physicians of late? Has the range of the recluse moved north?

I got a kick out of one paragraph from the newspaper article: "Bites. Effects depend on the amount of venom and range from nothing to severe lesions. If bitten, apply antiseptic and an ice pack. Contact a physician or hospital."

I've gotta chuckle a bit at this. From what I can gather, doctors up here are clueless as what to do for these bites. And I'm not sure that doctors anywhere else know much more. That's why the list of "home remedies" is so long.




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