I Think My Child Has a Spider Bite!


Kids Health Watch is brought to you by our friends and Magnolia Springs Pediatrics

Hey guys! This month, I want to discuss a common misconception about your child’s health. Almost every day, I see a patient claiming to have a spider bite. Luckily, spider bites are exceedingly rare. The most common explanation of a swollen, red area that’s tender on the skin is a skin infection. One of the more frequent culprits is a bacteria named Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to simply as “staph,” carried on the skin and in the nose of healthy people. It’s estimated that 30-60% of all people have “staph” on their skin. But the real problem is the emergence of a “staph” bacteria resistant to penicillin-based antibiotics called MRSA. Current studies show that somewhere between 10-50% of all people have this MRSA on their skin and in their nose, and this is scary business.

It’s important to differentiate between hospital-acquired MRSA and community-acquired MRSA (or CA-MRSA). The hospital-acquired type is very aggressive and occurs in people recently hospitalized, in nursing homes, and/or healthcare workers. The CA-MRSA can occur in anyone! The CA-MRSA can also be very aggressive but mainly causes skin infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or another drainage. The most common ways of spreading CA-MRSA occur in people who have close contact with someone who has a history of boils or abscesses and amongst athletes who share equipment. Those with a weakened immune system are at a greater risk of having invasive disease as well.

I have only seen one spider bite in my pediatric career; however, I have seen thousands of MRSA infections! We now routinely see 5-10 cases per week and sometimes 4-6 instances daily during the spring and summer! Let’s talk about some ways to protect your child and family.

You can protect yourself from infections by practicing good hygiene (i.e., keeping your hands clean by washing with soap and water and showering after working out), covering any open skin area such as abrasions or cuts with a clean, dry bandage, avoiding sharing personal items such as towels or razors, using a barrier (e.g., clothing or a towel) between your skin and shared workout equipment, and wiping surfaces of equipment before and after use (example-in the locker room and weight room at school). While many schools and businesses have closed to “clean them up, “the risk of spread returns when the kids come back with the bacteria on their skin or in their nose.

So what can you do? See your healthcare provider for any red, swollen bug bites or scratches to be evaluated for infection. While rare, MRSA has been known to cause severe infections in otherwise healthy kids, including blood infections and pneumonia. And yes, they can be treated with non-penicillin-based antibiotics and creams, although most need to be drained and cultured to see what antibiotics will work best for your child. And yes, it can re-occur. Once you have it, there is no way to eradicate the MRSA bacteria, but common sense and good hygiene can go a long way. MRSA is here to stay in our area! So be vigilant regarding bug bites and scratches with your child, and seek medical care if you are worried. Is it a spider bite? Most likely not, but your doctor can help you decide!

Robert L. Rux, M.D. is a Board Certified Pediatrician at Magnolia Springs Pediatrics. Originally from Mobile, he attended medical school at The University of Alabama School of Medicine (UAB) and completed residency at The Children’s Hospital of Alabama (UAB).


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