Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Not a Freaking Spider Bite

When I first started in the ER, I was surprised at how many patients came in every shift with "spider bites". These bites seemed to have a special affinity for the buttock, breast, and armpit areas and tended to be teeming with pus. The patients usually insisted that a brown recluse spider had bitten them. Eventually I figured out that these were not in fact spider bites. They were abscesses caused by a staph infection, usually MRSA. The doctor or nurse practitioner would cut open the abscess and push, prod and dig until all the visible pus was evacuated. I learned how to properly irrigate, pack, and dress the ensuing wound, then hand the patient their prescription for Bactrim.
After a while as I became a more jaded RN, I started to get annoyed with the patients who were adamant that they had been bitten by a spider and were often quite offended and insulted at the insinuation that they actually had a staph infection. Apparently other staffers were getting tired of it too. One of our docs (my favorite) copied a news article and tacked it up in the wating room. It was about the geographic location of the brown recluse spider, ie. nowhere near where we were. Patients would still leave shaking their heads and insisting that the doctor had misdiagnosed them and their "spider bite".
Now I am out of the ER and in the surgical area. I assumed there would be no more spider bites. However, now patients coming in for an I and D of their abscess under anesthesia are telling me about their spider bites preoperatively, as I start their IV Vancomycin.
I had to roll my eyes the other day as my family was watching the show Dr. G on Discovery Health. Dr. G, a Medical Examiner in Orlando, Fl was describing the events leading to the death of her next subject. As soon as I heard the words "he was concerned about a spider bite on his back", I was like "For God's sake, Dr. G. You don't even have to do an autopsy. he died of MRSA". My kids were so impressed when the report of autopsy backed up my hypothesis :) The young man had neglected to see a doctor for his fever and malaise, not linking these symptoms with his "spider bite". The poor guy died of a treatable infection.
I hope I don't sound too much like a bi%$#, but just a little vent.


  1. Ya, I get a lot of those type of comments too. Drives me squirrly. Even tho there are brown recluse spiders around here, the probability of the "bites" actually being a spider bite are practically nil. You are correct....most are MRSA infections....

  2. Believe it or not I had a HS teacher who had a brown recluse bite when younger--it hitchhiked on the packaged of some fruit I think.

    Caused all sorts of health problems for her. This was in Michigan too.

    My hubby is allergic to those blond spiders and their bites look like brown recluse bites. Yucky.


  3. Ewwww. I don't even want to think about creepy creatures climbing out of my fruit.