June 11, 2015

SOS: The Scoop on Spiders


Summertime, meant for relaxing and enjoying the great outdoors, is usually given a warm welcome. However, this time of year also brings out a common fear in many of us — spider bites. There are some misconceptions when it comes to dealing with spiders in our area. David Humphrey, MD, of the Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center at Mission Hospital, kindly shared some insight on what to worry about when it comes to spiders, as well as advice on how to avoid spider bites.

One common misconception in our area is the fear of the brown recluse. According to Dr. Humphrey, the paranoia associated with this particular spider is exaggerated.


This map shows the habitat ranges of recluse spiders. As you can see, the habitat range of the recluse extends only into the extreme south-western point of our state, which is not in our general vicinity.

Dr. Humphrey shared that he often sees patients who believe they have a spider bite, when “in reality they have either an abscess, venous leg ulcer, pressure ulcer or an infected cyst.”

While we can let out a small sigh of relief in regards to the recluse, we should still be cautious of other spiders. According to Dr. Humphrey, other spider bites can occur, but normally won’t produce a necrotic ulcer unless it is secondarily infected, meaning the effects of another pre-existing infection. A necrotic ulcer occurs as the result of the death of cells in living tissue.

Another spider bite that can occur comes from the black widow, which also does not produce a necrotic skin lesion. Rather, these spiders can produce significant muscle cramping, according to Dr. Humphrey.

Bites would be most likely to occur when working around wood piles, leaf debris and cleaning out any area that has not recently been cleaned. To prevent a spider bite, Dr. Humphrey recommends being observant of outdoor areas and wearing work gloves.


David Humphrey, MD, has been the Medical Director of the Wound Therapy Center at Mission Hospital since September of 1999. Dr. Humphrey oversees the outpatient Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center at Mission Hospital as well as the satellite wound clinics at McDowell Hospital, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital and Clyde, NC.



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