DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What are the symptoms of a brown recluse spider bite? A month ago, I got a very itchy spot on my foot. I squeezed it, and two little specks of fluid came out. It still itches at times. Could it cause muscle soreness throughout the body? – R.H.
ANSWER: The brown recluse spider is found mostly in southeastern Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, northern Georgia and southern portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. A closely related species lives in Arizona and California. If you don’t live in one of those places, your chances of meeting this spider are small.
The spider is about 1 inch long (2.54 cm) and has the pattern of a violin on its back. This is not an aggressive spider. Only when a human disturbs its home and only when it happens upon a human’s skin does it bite. These spiders like to live in closets, attics, barns and places like wood piles.
A bite produces burning pain and redness at the bite site. The bite gradually turns blue or purple and an ulcer or blister appears. Both turn black in time. Bitten people complain of headache, body aches and often have a fever. They frequently feel sick to their stomachs, and they might throw up.
Emergency treatment consists of washing the bite with soap and water and then applying an ice pack to it to slow absorption of the spider’s poison. The bitten site, usually a foot, leg, hand or arm, should be elevated, and the person should then be taken to an emergency department for definitive treatment.
Your bite doesn’t sound like a brown recluse spider bite. Muscle pains at this late date are unlikely to be due to a month-old spider bite, especially since no other typical signs have occurred.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My wife is a phys-ed teacher who spends a great deal of time in the heat, wind and sun. Please provide options for keeping the skin, especially that of the face, looking youthful and smooth. – M.H.
ANSWER: The sun is the greatest destroyer of youthful skin and one of the greatest contributors to skin cancer. Limiting the exposure of the skin to its ultraviolet rays keeps it wrinklefree and lessens the chances for cancer.
Sunscreens are most important. Your wife and you should apply a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or more, 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, and you both should reapply it frequently.
Most sunscreens protect against ultraviolet B rays, and that is good. However, ultraviolet A rays are also involved in skin wrinkling. Get a sunscreen that contains protection for both. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are two ingredients that provide such protection. Formerly, they came in white ointments that made users look like they were circus clowns. Now they come in fine particles that don’t draw any attention.
Limiting sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun rays are their strongest, limits the amount of skin damage.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat affords protection to the face.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853-6475.
(c) 2007 North America Synd., Inc.
All Rights Reserved