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Does popping spider bite help?

Spider bites are quite common, with some estimates suggesting 10,000 to 15,000 people in the United States are bitten by spiders each year. While the vast majority of spider bites are harmless, some can be painful or even dangerous. This leads many who are bitten by spiders to take measures to try and relieve pain or draw out venom, including popping or squeezing the bite. But does popping or squeezing a spider bite actually help? Here we’ll examine the evidence behind this common question.

What happens when a spider bites?

When a spider bites, it pierces the skin with its fangs and injects venom. Only a handful of spiders in the U.S. have fangs long enough and strong enough to penetrate human skin. The venom contains a complex mixture of compounds, including neurotransmitters, peptides, and proteins that target the nervous system, blood vessels, and cell membranes.

The venom triggers an inflammatory reaction, as the body responds to the foreign compounds. This causes redness, swelling, warmth, and pain around the bite site. The severity depends on the potency of the venom and the amount injected. Some spiders rarely cause more than a minor pinprick sensation, while bites from spiders like the black widow or brown recluse can be medically significant.

What does popping or squeezing the bite do?

The thought behind popping or squeezing a spider bite is that it will force some of the venom back out, preventing it from spreading through the body. Applying pressure can sometimes expel a small amount of fluid from the bite site.

However, this is unlikely to significantly reduce venom exposure. Spider venom spreads quickly, within minutes, from the interstitial fluid into the lymphatic system and bloodstream. By the time most bites are squeezed or popped, the majority of venom has already dispersed from the bite area.

Squeezing does cause the rupture and damage of cells and capillaries around the bite, leading to bruising and bleeding. It also risks introducing bacteria from the skin surface into the wound, increasing chances of infection.

Does popping the bite actually help?

Based on the quick dispersal of venom through the body, there is no evidence that popping or squeezing meaningfully reduces venom exposure or damage after a spider bite.

Pain relief

Some claim that popping or squeezing provides pain relief by releasing pressure from swelling. However, spider bites should not cause rapid pressure build up. While a firm bandage may help limit swelling, squeezing or popping does not significantly reduce pressure and risks bruising and infection.

Venom removal

As noted previously, venom spreads through the body within minutes. Popping or squeezing after this point will do little to nada to remove venom from the body. Early squeezing at the bite site also does not result in clinically significant venom removal.

Wound healing

Breaking open the wound also does not improve healing. With sterile technique, a medical professional may carefully open an abscess to drain pus. However, this is not necessary with a spider bite. Damaging the area can increase scarring and introduce bacteria that delay healing.

Infection prevention

There is no evidence that popping or squeezing prevents infection. Again, it actually risks pushing bacteria deeper into the skin, increasing the chances of wound infections.

Potential harms from popping spider bites

While provide no benefit, popping or squeezing a spider bite can cause additional harm:

Increased pain

Rupturing capillaries and tissue around the bite is likely to increase pain rather than relieve it. This can also cause bruising that enlarges the painful area.


Breaking small blood vessels leads to bleeding from the wound site. While likely minimal, this can increase discomfort.

Infection risk

As discussed above, introducing bacteria into the bite from the skin’s surface significantly raises the risk of a secondary skin infection. Signs of infection include increasing redness, swelling, pain, heat, and pus.


Tearing the skin opens it up to increased scarring once healed. Scars may be minimal but squeezing and popping can make them larger and more noticeable.

Damage to tissue

Vigorously squeezing or popping can damage the skin and underlying soft tissue. This can kill skin cells, worsen wound healing, and in extreme cases cause loss of tissue.

Delay in proper treatment

Attempting to pop and squeeze may delay prompt medical care, such as wound cleaning and antibiotics. This allows more time for venom absorption and infection risk.

When to seek emergency care for spider bites

While extremely rare, certain spider bites can cause severe reactions or medical emergencies. Seek immediate medical care if a spider bite results in:

– Difficulty breathing
– Nausea or vomiting
– Feeling faint or dizzy
– Severe pain that is not relieved by over-the-counter medication
– Oral pain or odd sensations in the mouth or throat
– Spreading redness, swelling, or discharge from the bite site
– Muscle spasms or cramping

These can signal a severe reaction, either to the venom itself or due to infection. Prompt medical treatment reduces the risk of complications.

First aid for spider bites

Rather than popping or squeezing, proper first aid for spider bites includes:

Wash the bite

Use mild soap and water to gently clean the area. This removes some venom or bacteria on the surface.

Apply a cool compress

A clean, cold cloth or covered ice pack can help reduce pain and swelling. Do not apply ice directly.

Elevate the area

If on an arm or leg, keeping the bite elevated above the level of the heart can aid drainage and reduce swelling.

Use an OTC pain medication

An oral over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) can help relieve discomfort.

Avoid using creams/gels

Ointments, creams, glue, chemical agents, etc. should not be applied, as they tend to increase skin reactions.

Watch for signs of infection

Monitor for spreading redness, swelling, oozing, increased pain, shiny skin, fever, or other signs of infection at the site. Seek medical attention promptly if these arise.

Bandage the area

Apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a sterile bandage. This helps prevent infection. Leave bandages in place for 24 hours.

Medical treatment for spider bites

In addition to first aid measures, a doctor may advise:

– Cleaning and debridement – Further flushing of the wound and removal of dead skin or tissue. Local anesthetic is often used.

– Antibiotics – Oral or topical antibiotics if signs of infection develop. Prevents worsening cellulitis or abscess.

– Tetanus shot – May be recommended depending on vaccination status and nature of the bite.

– Antihistamines – Anti-itch medication like Benadryl can relieve itching and mild allergic reactions.

– Pain medication – Prescription lidocaine patches, cream, or oral medication for pain unresponsive to OTC options.

– Antivenom – Rarely needed, but can rapidly reverse dangerous venom effects from bites like the black widow.

– Surgery – For severe infections, extensive wounds, or tissue damage that requires drainage or debridement.

Home care and recovery from spider bites

Most spider bites can be managed at home after the initial medical assessment. Guidelines include:

– Take pain relievers as needed per instructions. Avoid aspirin as it may increase bleeding risks.

– Apply cool compresses 3-4 times a day for 20 minutes to reduce pain and swelling.

– Keep the wound clean and covered with bandages until fully healed. Watch for signs of infection.

– Elevate the area when possible to improve drainage and swelling.

– Apply topical antibiotic cream per instructions after cleaning the area.

– Avoid scratching or touching the bite, which may worsen irritation and introduce bacteria.

– Use an antihistamine medication as directed to reduce itching.

– Follow activity restrictions if recommended to allow proper healing and prevent reinjury.

– Arrange follow up visits to monitor wound healing and check for complications like infections.

Most minor spider bites heal completely within 1-2 weeks with proper care. Seek prompt medical attention if severe pain, swelling, fever, or other concerning symptoms arise.

Preventing spider bites

Spider bites often happen when spiders are unintentionally disturbed or trapped against bare skin. Prevention tips include:

– Avoid sticking bare hands in areas spiders may hide – like attics, basements, woodpiles, or bushes.

– Check shoes, gloves, and clothing before use. Shake out items that have been left outside.

– Use insect repellent when camping or in wooded areas.

– Clear clutter and vacuum regularly to discourage spider infestations.

– Install screens on windows and doors and seal openings in walls or foundations.

– Be careful handling firewood, rocks, and debris. Watch for spiders underneath.

– Use caution cleaning rarely used outdoor sheds/garages where spiders may make webs.

– Keep bedsheets tucked in and avoid sleeping on the floor or ground.

– Inspect pet bedding since spiders are attracted to their hair.

– Shake out towels that have been hanging unused for awhile before each use.

Exercising proper caution helps avoid accidental and aggressive spider bites. Being aware of your surroundings can allow you to vacate areas where spiders have made homes. Reducing places for them to hide discourages infestations. Promptly treating any spider bites that do occur reduces chances of complications.


In summary, popping or squeezing a spider bite is not recommended. It does not effectively remove venom, reduce swelling, prevent infection, or improve healing. Instead, it often increases pain, bleeding, infection risk, and scarring. Proper first aid like washing the area, applying cold compresses, bandaging, pain relief, and watching for infection is the best immediate treatment. Most spider bites resolve well with self-care. However, seek prompt medical attention for any concerning symptoms or moderate to severe bites. With appropriate care, most spider bites can heal without complications within 1-2 weeks.

Spider Bite First Aid Do’s Spider Bite First Aid Don’ts
Wash bite with mild soap and water Attempt to pop or squeeze the bite
Apply a cool, wet compress Apply hot compresses, which may increase swelling
Elevate the bite area if possible Apply creams, gels, glue, or chemical agents
Take over-the-counter pain medication Scratch or excessively touch the bite
Watch for signs of infection Delay seeking medical attention if symptoms concern you
Cover with clean bandage Attempt to remove the venom yourself