Brown recluse spider bites VA woman in the face, causing hallucinations

CRAWFORD COUNTY, VA – A woman from Crawford County, Virginia said she hallucinated for several days after a poisonous brown recluse spider bit her face while recently kayaking the Staunton River from Gladys to Brookneal.

Sherri Maddox told news channel WFXR she wasn’t worried when it happened. The next day she went to the Gretna Emergency Center and was treated with antibiotics

Her symptoms got worse. Her lip was unnaturally swollen and the pain was so severe that Maddox was crying.

On the third day, doctors concluded that her symptoms were due to a bite from a brown recluse spider.

Maddox was hospitalized for about a week. She told WFXR that the hallucinations lasted for five days

“I just thought I was at my mother’s or sister’s house and then I got out and looked in the hospital room and found I was in the hospital,” Maddox said.

She thought pain medication was causing the hallucinations, but has since “heard from several different people that the spider venom does just that.”

The poison of the brown recluse spider contains a neurotoxic component that can cause hallucinations. Three years ago, a Tennessee woman said she felt like hallucinating a few days after waking from a brown recluse spider infestation in her bedroom, CBS News reported.

Angela Wright’s story is extreme, and the hallucinations weren’t the worst side effects after being bitten by brown recluse spiders that attacked her apartment in Brentwood, Tennessee. She was “seconds after a stroke” after blood clots from the bites got into her lungs.

She told CBS in 2018 that she would have to take blood thinners for the rest of her life and that doctors told her not to have children because of the blood clots.

Maddox, the kayaker, told WFXR she wasn’t sure she would survive.

“I just prayed that I wouldn’t die,” said Maddox, “because I hear horror stories and you look for all these things on the internet.”

Although Maddox and others have had extreme reactions to bites from brown recluse spiders, the vast majority of people experience no or minor symptoms, according to the Penn State Extension Service. Most people will be itchy, and the area around the bite may blister.

Still, anyone who has been bitten by such a spider should see a doctor, experts say.

Symptoms and signs of a brown recluse bite include:

  • The pain increases for the first eight hours after the bite.
  • Fever, chills, and body aches.
  • A bite mark with a pale center that turns dark blue or purple with a red ring around it.
  • A bite wound that becomes an open wound and is surrounded by dying skin.

Brown recluse spiders can be either light or medium brown and have a fiddle-shaped mark on their cephalothorax (the part of the body to which their legs are attached).

Brown recluse spiders are well established in all or part of 16 southern and Midwestern states. Although Virginia isn’t one of them, David Moore, an entomologist from Lynchburg, told WFXR he wouldn’t be surprised if the arachnid found its way into the state.

In some cases, brown recluses travel to packing materials and shipping areas where they have settled. They often hide in places like crevices in nature and inside in places like wrapped clothes and bedding, little-used drawers, and attics in houses.

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