Spider bites can be painful, but if you start to experience severe symptoms, a trip to the emergency room is needed.

Kansas is home to two types of spiders with venom dangerous to humans. The Brown Recluse and Black Widow spider both have intimidating names and bites. Spider bites can be deadly. Knowing about symptoms may save your life.

Spiders are experts at hiding, and the venomous Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders are no exception. These spiders like to live in secluded areas where they can stay out of site, and this is what makes them so dangerous. Reaching down into a dimly lit corner of your home or through a stack of cardboard boxes can land you with an unexpected bite and intense pain.

These bites are rarely fatal, but you shouldn’t ignore your symptoms. If you think you may have been bitten by either of these spiders, it is best to get instructions from a medical professional as soon as possible. Contact your doctor or visit an immediate care clinic the day you are bitten .1

Brown Recluse Spider
Black Widow Spider

Usually, spider bites will cause minor pain, skin discoloration and localized swelling. For most people, this is where the symptoms stop, but if you start to see severe symptoms, it is time for a trip to the ER.

Five Spider Bite Symptoms That Warrant Emergency Treatment

Treatments vary by person, but can include pain relieving medicines, a tetanus shot, medicine to control muscle spasm, steroids and antivenom. 

Less severe symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. Your trip to an immediate care clinic or reaching out to your doctor can help get the right treatment and relieve these minor symptoms:

  • Itching/Rash
  • Mild-to-Moderate Muscle Pain & Cramps
  • Skin Discoloration
  • Mild Headaches

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Which Is Worse: Bites from Black Widows or Brown Recluse?

Bites from either of these spiders are usually minor and heal on their own. However, both spiders can deliver a venom that is deadly or damaging in the right circumstances.

A Brown Recluse bite may not hurt right away, but it can cause a painful and slow-healing wound on your skin. If you are having a strong reaction to a bite, you could experience a mild fever or notice an open sore starting to develop a few days later. Call your doctor or go to an immediate care clinic, if you are experiencing these more severe symptoms. If these more severe symptoms start right away or worsen quickly, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

A Black Widow bite can cause minor pain and swelling at the site of the bite. If the pain is more severe, spreads beyond the bite site or you begin experiencing stomach cramping, it’s time to head to the ER or call 911. 

The first step is to get a diagnosis from a medical professional.

Typically the symptoms from a Black Widow bite resolve within a few days where the Brown Recluse may worsen for up to 10 days and take months to fully heal.

Severity of the bite depends on the person and how much venom was delivered, so you can’t generalize that a bite from either spider is worse. 

Brown Recluse Spiders Cannot Puncture Human Skin On Their Own

A Brown Recluse’s bite cannot usually puncture your skin on it’s own.2 The spider doesn’t have the strength or weight to pierce through skin. 

Something has to apply pressure to the spider for it’s bite to break the skin. When these spiders crawl into shoes, placing your foot inside and pressing against the spider could create enough pressure for the Brown Recluse to bite you. Another example is when the spider crawls into your clothing or bedding and you press against them. 

Where The Spiders Hide


These spiders like to be left alone and usually live in low traffic areas. Hiding in cardboard boxes or in the secluded corners of a building are where these spiders like to hide.

Black Widow’s tend to hide outdoors in woodpiles, under the eves of your home or outbuildings, around fences and other areas where debris has built up. 

Brown Recluses tend to be attracted to wooden surfaces. Your home’s framing, wooden cabinets and cardboard are their favorite places to hide.

An easy way to avoid a bite from either a Brown Recluse or Black Widow is to look for these spiders before you reach into areas you can’t see well. Carefully open old cardboard boxes and be sure to inspect cabinets or hard-to-reach nooks before trying to grab anything.

Interesting Facts

After mating, the female Black Widow spider usual eats her mate.

The Brown Recluse gets it’s name from the fact they tend to avoid people.


Brown Recluse Spider Toxicity, National Center for Biotechnology Information

2 Types of Venomous Spiders, Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

3 Brown Recluse and Black Widow Spiders, Illinois Department of Public Health

Black Widow Spiders, PestWorld.org

Brown Recluse Spiders, K–State Research and Extension 

Spider Bites, Mayo Clinic

Venomous Spider, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention