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If you are bitten by a spider, the chances are that the bite won’t be serious. While this shouldn’t suggest you should wait until symptoms are severe to act, there are ways to reasonably ascertain if a bite is not severe. This is especially true with respect to brown recluse bites.

If it takes a really long time for the lesion to heal, it might not be due to a brown recluse bite. Most brown recluse bites heal within three weeks and even the biggest ones heal within three months.

If your bite is a raised bump, it may be from a spider—just not a brown recluse. Brown recluse venom causes lesions that are more often flat or slightly concave due to the destruction of underlying blood vessels and tissues.

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If you are bitten by a spider (and you don’t have any of the symptoms above) you should immediately wash and clean the skin, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, the director of cosmetic and clinical research and an associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “You should thoroughly cleanse the skin, but avoid over-scrubbing or using a harsh soap that can disrupt the skin barrier. The Dove beauty bar is my go-to,” he says.

Its bite may look less obvious than a brown recluse spider bite. You may feel a pinprick sensation and see two fang marks accompanied by local redness and swelling.

4) Dr. P. Marazzi / Science Source

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And despite what you may have heard, even where brown recluses are present, they rarely bite, he adds. To identify a brown recluse, look for six eyes arranged in pairs. (Although getting close enough to see the eye pattern on a spider sounds, frankly, terrifying.)

Rick Vetter, PhD, is a spider expert and staff research associate in the department of entomology at the University of California, Riverside.

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Wolf spiders are recognized by their hairy bodies and multiple eyes (two medium eyes on the top, two large eyes in the middle, and four smaller eyes on the bottom).

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In cases like this, a skin infection is a more likely suspect. In fact, a lesion that is swollen, warm to the touch, or red at the center area could very well be due to a staph infection.

If you have a rash or bite after working outdoors, it’s possible that poison ivy, another type of insect, or a non-venomous spider could be the cause.

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