This was a few days after the bite. It looks like a burn and felt like one, too.
Date Photo Taken: 7/28/1996
Date Photo Taken: 7/29/1996
At this stage the bite was healing, but it itched a lot. I broke open capsules of Vitamin E oil and rubbed the oil on the bite. It kept the skin moist and minimized the itching and cracking of the dried skin.
Eventually the wound healed and now the scar is hardly visible. I never debrided the wound, or picked the scab.
On or about Wednesday, July 24, 1996 I was unknowingly bitten by a brown recluse spider. The bite was on the top of my left elbow. For the first couple of days, I thought it was a big mosquito bite. The bite was about the size of a dime, very circular and red. It looked like a little volcano with a red outer ring and a small center island of red. The bite was very itchy and I am sure I scratched at it a little. Soon the sore was getting worse. A red inflammation developed surrounding the bite. The bite itself was getting bigger and looking uglier. On Sunday morning some skin in the sore started turning black (necrosis). This was no ordinary mosquito bite, the pain was becoming worse. I went to the emergency room at the Dodgeville Hospital on Sunday afternoon.
The doctor confirmed that it looked like a Brown Recluse Spider(BRS) bite. I was given a prescription for 36 tablets of 250mg cephalexin (cost $12.00), an antibiotic, to be taken three times a day. The result of scratching had apparently caused a staph skin infection.
The infection and inflammation seemed to continue to peak during Monday and Tuesday. The picture to the left was taken on Wednesday. The red color is due solely to the inflammation caused by the bite. The inflammation was about six inches in diameter. Some of the necrosis is visible in the bite which was now the size of a quarter. There was nothing applied to the bite except some antibiotic ointment, Polysporin. The area was extremely painful and sensitive to movement or touch. I also experienced very severe headaches, aching in my left leg, and some nausea. The antibiotics may have accounted for some of the nausea. On Wednesday I felt that the inflammation had started to subside. On Thursday morning the pain and inflammation diminished significantly.
The wound seemed similar in many ways to a burn, or the detonation of a small thermonuclear device! I ended up losing over five pounds due to not eating for a couple of days because I was so sick. To put this episode in perspective, I did not even get my email for three days!
After Wednesday I started putting vitamin E oil on the wound. Things are getting back to normal, although it may be awhile before my taste for pepperoni pizza with extra cheese comes back.
After recovering enough, I logged on the Internet to do a search on BRS, Brown Recluse Spider, bites. I had never heard of them before. What I found was pretty scary. After you read "The Hot Zone", read about BRS. Apparently the antibiotics do not affect the bite and inflammation, it only is used to suppress secondary infections.
Several weeks have passed now. The sore is healing slowly. I may have a case of arachniphobia, because I find it hard to put on a pair of shoes without checking for spiders.
Maybe it wasn't a BRS afterall? After my bite incident, I suffered from joint pain. I subsequently tested positive for Lyme Disease. After a month of anti-biotics the joint pain went away. This article mentions Lyme Disease (caused by tick-borne spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi) being associated with necrotic wounds. I have always wondered whether my testing positive for Lyme was more than coincidence. This article also mentions poison ivy which I battle with every summer. Hmmm? --------------------------------------------- The above comments were written at the time of the bite.
December 10, 2004
I was looking at my photos and it occurred to me that they show something that is sometimes difficult to explain to new bite victims. The venom appears to kill only a thin layer of skins cells. The area affected is determined by the dispersion of the venom within hours if not minutes of the bite. The reaction to this chemical attack is very severe. I think the description that best fits is severe flu and burn symptoms.
Psychologically victims can overreact and panic at the sight of the bite and experiencing the pains and nausea involved. Sometimes they may demand more treatment than is necessary. If the affected area is only skin-deep then how are surgeries justified? Also, is debriding a cure worse than the disease?
My wife Linda was bitten years after I was. We captured her bite on photos from the first day. Her photos show that her bite also was skin-deep, but looked and felt far worse. http://www.highway60.com/mark/brs/linda_bite.htm