Morris man recovering from venomous spider bite
By Jeanne Millsap For The Herald-News August 21, 2012 12:32PM
The effects of a brown recluse spider bite on Morris resident Tyler Leadinghouse's foot. | submitted photo
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
Inspect or shake out any clothing, shoes, towels, or equipment before use.
Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, hat, gloves, and boots when handling stacked or undisturbed piles of materials.
Remove and reduce debris and rubble from around the outdoor work areas.
Trim or eliminate tall grasses from around outdoor work areas.
Store apparel and outdoor equipment in tightly closed plastic bags.
Keep your tetanus boosters up to date (every 10 years). Spider bites can become infected with tetanus spores.
Updated: September 23, 2012 6:03AM
MORRIS — Tyler Leadinghouse didn’t think much about the sharp pain he felt on the top of his foot one day at work. A shop boy at a local construction business, his steel-toed boots occasionally pinched his skin when he moved a certain way. But when the stinging didn’t go away, he decided to take his shoe off and have a look.
The first thing he saw was a brown spider on the top of his sock that quickly ran away. Then he took off his sock and looked at his foot.
“I noticed two perfect little black marks on my skin,” he said. “It turned my whole foot a light pink purple color. I could feel something wasn’t right. It was quick.”
Leadinghouse didn’t panic. An outdoorsman and camper with a career goal of law enforcement, the 20-year-old Morris resident had training in first aid. He knew about spider bites. After a quick Internet search to get a refresher on the distinguishing characteristics of poisonous spiders, Leadinghouse had a good idea what this spider was.
He had been bitten by the infamous brown recluse, or fiddleback, spider.
Two poisonous spiders
The brown recluse, or Loxosceles reclusa, is a shy spider that prefers running away to biting. It hides in dark cracks of woodwork or furniture or piles of paper or boxes during the daytime, coming out at night to hunt. Leadinghouse was unloading wooden pallets from a semi when he was bitten.
The spider is one of two in this area that is highly poisonous to humans, the other being the black widow. It seldom bites. When it does, it’s typically when it becomes trapped between the skin and clothing or bedding. Its venom causes rapid inflammation and can lead to serious medical complications, including disfiguring wounds.
In about 10 percent of cases, severe necrosis, or death of tissue, occurs.
According to University of Illinois Extension entomologist Dr. Phil Nixon, the brown recluse can be found inside buildings in northern Illinois, but is more common in more southern states, where the species is present in 70 percent of all buildings.
“There is a lot of over-reporting of bites,” Nixon said. “Many of them can really be attributed to MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). They almost never bite.”
Sighting a spider running away from the site, though, makes the diagnosis much more likely, he said, and positive identification makes an even surer conclusion. Brown recluses are a fast, brown spider with a distinctive dark violin-shaped mark on their backs. Nixon said it takes a microscope to truly make a positive identification, though, to be able to see the spider’s six eyes that are in three sets of two.
Leadinghouse didn’t need that close of a confirmation to know he had been bitten by something poisonous. He washed his foot with soap and water, cleaned it with alcohol and went to the emergency room, where he was given antibiotics to prevent any infection that could have arisen from the bite.
There is no anti-venom for the brown recluse spider bite.
It took weeks for Leadinghouse to recover from the bite, after several initial days of purple blistering expanding across his foot and a couple of weeks in a boot and on crutches. He is fine now and back to work, but he has advice to anyone who thinks they may have been bitten by a poisonous spider.
“Pay attention if you get bit,” he said, “and get it checked out right away.”