Epidemiology of the brown recluse spider bite


  • Jacqueline Rhoads PhD, APRN, ACNP-BC, ANP-C, CCRN

    (Professor and Director Primary Care Community Health Public Health Nursing), Corresponding author
    1. LSUHSC School of Nursing, New Orleans, Los Angeles
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Jacqueline Rhoads, PhD, APRN, ACNP-BC, ANP-C, CCRN, LSUHSC School of Nursing, 1900 Gravier Street, New Orleans, LA 70112. Tel: 504-495-6194; E-mail: jrhoad@lsuhsc.edu


Purpose: The purpose of this article was to provide a comprehensive epidemiological and clinical description of the brown recluse spider bite.

Data sources: Review of evidenced-based scientific literature and practice guidelines. A specific descriptive case study is interwoven through the article to tie in the clinical presenting figure associated with this bite.

Conclusions: The brown recluse lives in a circumscribed area of the United States (the south central Midwest) with a few less common recluse species living in the more sparsely populated southwest United States. In these areas, where spider populations may be dense, recluse spiders may be a cause of significant morbidity.

Implications for practice: Most spider bites are asymptomatic but what makes this bite so devastating is the toxin injected by the brown recluse spider, which can cause considerable systemic symptoms as well as necrotic skin ulcers (necrotic arachnidism). The article presents process for diagnosis and stresses the importance of identifying the spider if at all possible.