Spider Bite

Thursday, 27th December 2007, 6.30am: I was woken by a strong smell of burning hair and a stinging sensation at the base of the little finger of my left hand (which was underneath my pillow). I pushed myself up, supporting myself on my hands (both still under the pillow) and looked around. After ten seconds or so, the burning smell faded. All three cats were dotted around the room fast asleep and I put the smell down to the vestiges of a dream. I lowered my head back onto the pillow and and dozed off again, listening to the radio.

At 7.00am, the stinging in my finger was too irritating to ignore, and I took a look. I had a one centimetre serum-filled (to bursting) blister at the base of my little finger. Looking down at it, I could see two tiny puncture marks at about 11 o'clock. I went downstairs and took an antihistamine tablet and pricked the centre of the blister with a needle to let out the fluid. Within half an hour the blister had refilled. This gradually went down after an hour or so, presumably as a result of the antihistamine. I reasoned it had to be a bug bite. I had a look through the bed but found nothing. At this time of year, the only bugs I'd seen in the house were spiders (which do leave two-pronged bites) and I'd certainly never had a bug bite like this one (if I sound a tad relaxed it because I'm a long-time victim of bug-bites, though usually in the summer months, not in December!).

By the end of the day, the blister had collapsed where I'd accidentally knocked a hole in it, though it continued to weep. The immediate surrounding area was raised and reddened and my finger slightly swollen. The mild stinging had continued throughout the day.

Friday, 28th December, 10.00am: My finger is quite swollen and the blistered area looks like a target: I've taken another antihistamine and have now also taken ibuprofen as the pain is quite horrible. The blistered area continues to weep throughout the day. Oddly, I have a hot, sore feeling on the inside right area of my inner arm below the elbow. By the end of the day, my finger remains swollen, hot and stings. The surrounding tissue is mildly inflamed and reddened, though not significantly so. I still have a sore patch below my elbow.

I've looked up the characteristics of the bite and find the symptoms seem to be that of a spider bite, as I'd suspected, particularly that of a brown recluse spider (not native to UK). Given that I live in the UK, the bite is more likely to be that of the false widow spider (Steatoda nobilis), but the symptoms don't match as well. Trust me, the only member of my entire family wholly unfazed by spiders! Stephen wants me to go to A&E. Oh yeah! Get seen by some doubting Thomas who's read less on the subject in his/her life than I have in the past 24 hours, as well as risking contracting MRSA! Another antihistamine and more painkillers before bedtime.

Spider BiteSaturday, 29th December: Surrounding area less inflamed, but bite area looks fairly nasty. I haven't noticed any developing superpowers, but have a mild case of hypochondria, mainly resulting from the brown recluse spider bite websites and I have to keep reminding myself that a) brown recluse spiders unlikely in UK, b) startling pictures on web probably worst case - on the plus side, spider bite deaths exceedingly rare. The sore itself is too painful to touch, though the surrounding tissue is fine, if mildly inflamed. Same sore area at my elbow, which has now radiated to the inner side of my bicep, but not significantly so. Here's a photograph of the sore taken at 13.52. The white area is pus-free and exuding clear serum. The whiteness seems to be the thickness of the blister. Seen from the side, the red circle stands a millimetre or two proud of the rest of my finger - no photo as it's very hard to take a photograph of your own left hand when you're left-handed. Why am I more bothered by the fact that this photo shows dirt under my fingernail than I am by the bite itself?

Sunday, 29th December: No change, as such, to the appearance of the sore, though the surrounding area is a little less inflamed. I have a dull headache and generally feel a bit achey. The sore is too painful to touch still, which is a tad inconvenient given its placement on the distal side of my working hand!


Brown Recluse Spider Bite2 Monday, 31st December: As you can see, I've (accidentally, in the shower) de-roofed the blister. Phew! Clearly not infected and most of the surrounding swelling has subsided, as have the pains in my arm. I don't feel particularly well, though: I still have a dull headache and my joints ache. The aching joints are, admittedly, my immune system's usual eccentric reaction to everything.

Update: No further photographs to show as I became too ill to care, but I survived. At the time of writing (November 2008), I still have a faint purplish scar on my finger that I delight in showing people whether they want to see it or not. I carefully kept the wound very clean as I was terrified that it would necrotise like the scary pictures I'd seen on the internet, but the bite still made me very ill for several months.  No energy whatsoever! The only highlight of the time was that I watched the entirety of The Sopranos in ten days. I think the lowest point was my fiftieth birthday dinner and the only part of it I really remember was crying my eyes out on the kitchen floor with a mascara wand in my hand as Sir begged me to please try as Rhiannon had put so much effort into it arranging it...I think I kinda performed ok, but I've never asked.

It's not as though you can avoid being bitten by a foreign spider under your pillow out of season, but...