This is a guest post by Kirsty Rayburn, Solano County, California Chapter Leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Weston A. Price Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt nutrition education foundation. Read our mission statement. . . Become a member and receive our lively and informative quarterly journal. Click here for a message from Sally Fallon Morell. Read our Dietary Guidelines here.
In addition to being a chapter leader for the WAPF, Kirsty is blessed to be the mother of three, and another six that call her ‘motha’! Her ministry is teaching people about real food and how important real food is for real health. This is her story of what they believed to be her husband’s brown recluse spider bite in May of 2008.
Brown recluse spiders (BRS) are generally found in the central Midwestern states, especially in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. We have been told by several ‘authority’ figures that BRS are not found in California. We beg to differ. This is our story of what we believe was a BRS bite.
Initially he thought he had a mosquito bite – it was red, itchy and bothersome. After a couple of days he brought the bite to my attention and we decided to visit Urgent Care at our HMO. By then, there was a distinctive bump, surrounded by dark edges and a large ‘bulls eye’ circle moving out on his leg. The skin was extremely hot to touch and the area around the bite was very hard and dry.
Our visit to Urgent Care did not go well. This was the first part of what led us to home treatment – we were assured that a) there were absolutely NO BRS in California and b) he was not suffering from any respiratory or skin distress (fever, shaking, rash, etc.), so clearly it was not a spider bite. For all intents and purposes we were sent home. We left and took treatment into our own hands.
I began by making a poultice of ground activated charcoal, tea tree oil, sage oil, and MSM powder. By bedtime that night the bite scene was beginning to swell and look very red. Colloidal silver was added as the mixing liquid for the poultice. Our main concern was to pull out the venom as fast as possible. The longer it was present the more necrosis (death of tissue) would occur. We also added bentonite clay into the poultice mix.
By this time I had done significant research on the Internet about BRS and their subsequent damaging bites. I knew we had to literally ‘throw everything we had and more’ at this to enable full healing for my husband. I found the “Brown Recluse First Aid Kit” from www.brown-recluse.com. I ordered the kit. It then became the basis of every poultice that we made. We stocked up on bandages (the soft stretchy gauze kind), non-stick sterile pads (imperative that non-stick is used due to the amount of weeping and oozing that the wound was doing) and bandage tape. When everything is changed at least three times a day you go through a LOT of supplies.
Much of the treatment was trial and error: soaking bandages with noni juice to lay on wound for 15 minutes after changing a poultice, using tamanu oil on the edges of the would (stopped due to irritation of the raw skin), stopping the colloidal silver and adding more lavender oil (it was reported to have prevented gangrene in WWI battlefield injuries). The wound was weeping copiously by day 6, and the poultice needed to be changed often (5 hours seemed to be the magic time frame). We followed this faithfully around the clock. The skin on the wound site was now extremely fragile and touching it seemed to just shred or dissolve the skin.
We started immune system building around this time as well – lots of Vitamin C, MSM and probiotics. The venom was clearly spreading and we wanted to build and strengthen the internal system as much as possible to fight any connection with the venom.
By day 7 we decided to remove the essential oils. The skin was so fragile and it was beginning to hurt…a lot. We used a marker and outlined the wound in order to track the changes. On day 8 we added approximately 1 teaspoon of coconut oil into the poultice mix. We also added zinc oxide to the very outer edges of the wound because the edges were getting very dry and tight. The zinc oxide seemed to relieve some of this tightness. By day 9 it was determined that not having it lower than the heart greatly reduced pain levels.
Our BRS first aid kit arrived on Day 10 and we added it immediately into the poultice mix. By now the wound was open, bubbly and clearly layers of skin were missing. Within 24 hours we started to see an improvement in the wound, although there was clearly some issues with edema (swelling) in his foot if he was standing too long.
We did have a couple of set backs along the way. For instance, if the poultice was left on too long it would dry out and have to be peeled / pulled from the wound. This removed more skin and was very painful. The other hiccup we had was around day 12 or 13. My husband started to itch…everywhere. Soon after the itching started a rash followed. This was a head to toe rash that was unrelenting. We tried benedryl and prednisone but all to no avail. By day 14 it was clear we couldn’t control the rash / itching and had to return to Urgent Care. The doctor said it was a ‘histamine rash’ and prescribed several medications, and believe it or not he didn’t even look at the bite wound! The doctor said there was no connection between the two events. New medications were hydroxyzine (25mg shot), 25 mg hydroxyzine 3x day, 40 mg pamotidine, 10 mg cetirizine and bethamethasone valerate cream. Within 2-3 days of this protocol the rash and itchiness were under control.
By Day 21 the wound had reached a point where new skin was now growing and we stopped the daytime poultices. During the day we now added tamanu oil, coconut oil, almond oil, cherry kernel oil and mango oil (in varying mixes) to soften the wound due to the fact the entire area was extremely dry, flaky and tight. Within a few more days we stopped the poultices all together. The oils we kept up for many more weeks until the skin had completely healed. A year later the wound area got very red and tender again (this is common with BRS bites) but thankfully it did no more than that.
In hindsight there are very few things I would have changed, one of which is not wasting my time and money at Urgent Care! I would have also incorporated raw honey into the treatment, along with liposomal Vitamin C soaked bandages in conjunction with comfrey being included in the poultices. Its there a guarantee that this was indeed a brown recluse spider bite? No. Without the spider there is no way of truly identifying what caused this. But I’m glad we treated it as we did. I wouldn’t have liked to see this ‘run it’s course’. If you live in the U.S. it’s probably a good thing to have a brown recluse spider first aid kit on hand – you never know when you might need it!
NOTE: How to make a poultice
Poultices can draw infection, treat boils and abscesses, relieve inflammation and draw toxins. A homemade poultice is made by mixing powdered ingredients (herbs, plant material, clay) with water or natural oils to make a paste. The paste is then applied directly to the skin and covered with a clean covering (cloth, bandage, gauze). If you use herbs that are potent (onion, garlic, ginger, mustard) you may want to layer the thin cloth between the skin and poultice. the poultice can be changed every 3-4 hours or whenever it dries out.