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Image of a very hairy spider.
Most spiders are perfectly harmless to humans and just want to be left alone, but there are a few exceptions. Read on to find out which ones you should be on the lookout for!

California Poison Control Offers Tips About Spider Bites

MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES California Poison Control System (CPCS) suggests being on the lookout for spiders which are increasingly active when temperatures rise. With more people doing spring cleaning or starting to hike in the hills, the risk of bites is more likely.

Image of the California Poison Control System logo. Spider bites can result in small puncture wounds, pain, redness, itching and swelling that can last a couple of days. Most bites are not serious.

California Poison Control System received 2,475 calls related to insect and spider bites in 2021.

Image of Dr. Rais Vohra.

Dr. Rais Vohra.

“Only a few spider species have fangs which can penetrate human skin and be worrisome to people. By following some precautions, people can minimize the chance of being bitten,” says Dr. Rais Vohra, Medical Director for the Fresno/Madera Division of CPCS.

Dr. Vohra added that most spiders are killed only because they scare people, not because they are actually dangerous to humans. Spiders generally prefer to live in undisturbed areas where they can catch insects in peace.

Image of a black widow spider.

Image by jgiammatteo.

Black widow spiders are very common in California, while the brown recluse spider is not a cause of human injury in the state.

The black widow venom is dangerous even when baby spiders hatch.

Black widows establish non-symmetrical webs in garages, closets, corners of patio furniture, as well as outdoors.

Black widows are usually not aggressive, so most bites occur because a spider is trapped or unintentionally touched.


Dr. Vohra suggests the following spider bite prevention tips:
  • Keep cribs and beds as far from the wall as possible.
  • Shake all clothes thoroughly before wearing them.
  • Check your bed thoroughly before climbing in; more so if the bed has not been slept in for a while.
  • Always put on gloves and long-sleeved shirts when going through or emptying closets, boxes or containers that have sat undisturbed for a while.
  • Turn your shoes over and shake them out before putting them on.
  • Teach children to respect spiders and to find an adult if they see one.
Image of a black and red spider.

Image by Bogdan Costin.

The symptoms of a black widow spider bite include minimal redness at the bite site, and gradually increasing pain over several hours after envenomation (venom is injected).

Dr. Vohra added that the biggest problem with black widow spiders is that the bites are exceedingly painful. Patients usually describe an unrelenting, throbbing, dull pain near the site of the bite. In severe cases, the pain can become generalized and affect the whole back, torso or abdomen.

A bite on the hand or arm can cause chest pain, and bites to the lower extremities can cause abdominal pain. A small area of redness or a localized sweat patch at the site of the bite is a tell-tale sign that doctors look for.

If pain is increasingly severe, seek medical attention, as effective medicines are available.

Not all black widow bites need medical attention. Reasons to go to the doctor after a spider bite include discomfort which is increasingly severe; spreading local redness accompanied by pain and any drainage from a bite site.

People who believe that they have been bitten by a spider is far more common than actual spider bites, and many “bites” are actually bacterial skin infections. An expanding red painful area on the skin may be a staph infection and should be examined by a physician.

Image of a tarantula.

Image by Karsten Paulick.

It should be noted that tarantulas, whether native or exotic, can also cause injury either with a bite or the irritation from their many hairs when they enter the skin or eyes.

About California Poison Control System

Call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 (the number is the same in all states) for questions about poison encounters. Trained pharmacists, nurses and other providers are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are available.

Get weekly tips about safety by texting TIPS to 20121 for English or texting PUNTOS to 20121 for Spanish.

Follow CPCS on Facebook and on Twitter @poisoninfo. CPCS is part of the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and is responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.

Image of a spider in a spider web.

“Sometimes it looks like I’m dancing, but it’s just that I walked into a spider web.” — Demetri Martin


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