Itsy bitsy? Sure, but spiders loom large in hiker phobias. They shouldn't: Only a few subspecies of the black widow and brown recluse can inflict enough damage to cut short a hike. Here's what you need to know about North America's most venomous spiders, from how to avoid them to treating their bites.
These scary-looking mouth parts include fangs and venom glands. Usually, they’re not robust enough to penetrate human skin. >> Scopula
Tiny hairs cover spiders’ bodies, allowing them to sense sounds, smells, and vibration. Scopula, thick tufts on the claws, provide purchase so spiders can scale walls. >> Eyes
Most spiders have eight eyes (the brown recluse has just six), and many hunting spiders can see ultraviolet light, which makes their prey pop. >> Legs
The arachnid calling card, leg arrangements are also subspecies identifiers. Each leg has upwards of seven segments and 30 muscles: Some spiders can jump 50 times their own length. >> Spinnerets
Producing steel-strength silk, these amino-acidexcreting organs help spiders build egg sacs, spin prey-catching webs, and parachute to new homes.
Spider Bite First Aid Treat any arachnid attack to minimize painful symptoms and prevent infection.
>> Use soap and water (hand sanitizer works, too) to clean the bite. “In the past 15 years in the U.S.,” says Westerfield, “two people have died, not specifically from the bite, but from secondary skin infections.”
>> Ice or cool the wound. “Cooling prevents blood vessels from pumping the spiders venom much farther than the bite spot,” says Verret.
>> Elevate the bite site to heart level, which will further decrease swelling. Also remove rings, watches, and anything that may restrict circulation.
>> Pop an anti-inflammatory (like ibuprofen or aspirin) or the strongest painkiller you have. “The symptoms of a black widow bite are very painful cramps,” reminds Westerfield, and medical attention may ease patient anxiety, nausea, and pain.
>> If there are signs of a secondary infection—the bite site is hot to the touch, red, or swelling after six hours—go to a doctor right away.
>> Contact the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222) to report a bite and for information about symptom management if you suspect one.
>> DO NOT cut the wound to try drawing out the venom, or use batteries to try and neutralize it. These old-wives’-tale treatments can make the wound worse and kill more tissue.