A mother of three in West Memphis, Arkansas, says a spider bite ended up costing her a leg.
"I was seeing my little cousins off to prom and their dad was like, 'Why are you limping? What's going on?' " Kiara Boulton told CNN affiliate WREG. "So I showed him my foot and said 'I think I got bit by a spider.' And he's like, 'Well what kind do you think it is?' And I said, 'a brown recluse.' "
Brown recluse spiders are common throughout the central and Midwestern United States
Experts say the bites typically heal after being cleaned and monitored by a doctor
A diabetic since she was 10 years old, Boulton went to the emergency room at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she was instructed to visit her primary care physician who prescribed her medication for the bite, she told WREG.
Boulton told WREG that her toe became black three days after the bite. She returned to the hospital and was told it had to be amputated, one of seven surgeries Boulton said are a result of the spider bite.
The hospital was unable to speak directly about Boulton's case.
"Saint Francis-Memphis is committed to the health and well-being of our community," the hospital said in a statement. "While we are unable to comment on a particular patient's case due to privacy laws, after a hospitalization or emergency room visit, it is vitally important for patients to follow their discharge instructions, take prescribed medications and attend all follow-up care appointments as part of their journey to recovery."
To help her get through the ordeal, Boulton told WREG, she said to herself "three kids, Kiara. Three.
"God wouldn't have let you have them if you weren't supposed to be here for them. Fight through this. Fight through the pain."
Treating and preventing spider bites
Brown recluse spiders are commonly found throughout the central and midwestern United States, said Neelendra Joshi, an assistant professor in the University of Arkansas Department of Entomology.
A bite from a brown recluse spider can be fatal in rare instances, but the spiders are typically not as aggressive as other species, Joshi said. But they will bite when they're trapped against our skin, he said.
"They have necrotic venom and as you see that's pretty poisonous and that can result in the premature death of blood cells," Joshi said. "It's considered one of the most poisonous house spiders in the United States."
After a spider bite occurs, the victim might or might not feel pain within a few minutes or hours. A rash can surround the bite and potentially spread to the rest of the body. The central dark area of the rash is what causes the tissue to die.
Treatment for brown recluse spider bites will be targeted for specific symptoms, such as antibiotics to treat infection or antihistamines to treat itching.
Dr. Donna Seger, Tennessee Poison Center medical director and professor of clinical medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said bites should be washed and allowed to air dry.
"There are a lot of urban legends about spider bites," Seger said, adding that she has seen patients slather on tobacco, coffee grounds and horse salve in her 30 years of treating spider bites.
After a bite, a small number of people will have a systemic reaction that will cause a fever, rash and the breakdown of red blood cells, Seger said. That can require a blood transfusion.
She recommends checking in with a doctor to confirm the type of bite and make sure it's healing properly.
However, people with diabetes have an entirely different immune system in healing, Seger cautioned.
"If you're talking about any kind of lesion or any type of skin disruption in a diabetic, they have a much higher chance of amputations," said Seger, who was not involved in Boulton's treatment. "Amputations themselves happen in diabetics without any type of cut or lesion."
To prevent spider bites, Joshi recommends removing spider webs and clutter, controlling various household insects and sealing crevices and openings between walls and corners to control spider populations. As additional protection, people can use sticky traps, chemical spray or dust insecticides that continue to work for extended amounts of time.