On Sunday afternoon I was folding clothes in the master bedroom when I heard Jacob bounding up the stairs.
“Mom, I have a bug bite!”
He turned around and I could see a big welt on his back, right above his tailbone. It was reddish orange in the middle with a ring of white skin, and then more red skin around the white skin. It looked like a bite all right. A SPIDER BITE. Josh thought so too. He got some first aid items from the bathroom.
I started Googling “brown recluse spider bite” and “images.” The pictures that came up on my phone were pictures of rotted flesh—bites that had festered and become black in the middle. Pictures out of a horror movie.
Jacob screamed out in pain. I looked over and Josh was dabbing rubbing alcohol on his bite. Obviously, it hurt.
I Googled “home remedies for insect bites.” I saw references to honey, baking soda, meat tenderizer (which we didn’t have) and vinegar. I ran downstairs and made up a little batch of home remedy, and I used Cream of Tartar for the meat tenderizer. Josh and I applied some to Jacob’s back. “Ouch,” Jacob cried. The bite was getting worse by the minute.
But then I thought: I’ve never seen a brown recluse spider in our house. Or anywhere in Pittsburgh. Or anywhere in my life. On the other hand, we were suffering from a bit of a STINK BUG invasion. So I Googled “Stink bug bite” and “images.” One site said “orange-reddish bites are made by the stink bug.” It sure looked orangish-red to me and Josh.
I called Poison Control.
“I think my son has been bitten by a STINK BUG."
“No ma’am,” replied my Poison Control operator. “Stink bugs are members of the (gobbledygook scientific word here) family, and those insects don’t bite.”
So it was back to the hypothesis that it was a BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER bite. Or maybe it was a BLACK WIDOW SPIDER. Or maybe just a wasp, or a bee.
I decided to ask Jacob a few questions:
“Jacob, do you remember getting the bite? Did it feel like you were pricked, or pinched?”
“Do you remember seeing any bugs around when it happened?”
“Do you remember hearing the sound of bugs flying? Like a bee?”
Finally, I did what any mom would do. I called a very skilled dermatologist who lives in Seattle. And who is my sister. And I described Jacob’s very large, swollen spider bite to her.
“Hmmmm…..” she said. “Send me some pictures.”
I took some pictures of Jacob’s giant bug bite on the front porch, where we could get some natural light. I transferred the pictures to the computer. I Googled a few more species of spider bites images. Yuck. I attached my photographs to an email for my sister and clicked “Send.”
Then some friends came over and Jacob seemed better and I forgot all about the pictures and my sister and my phone. About an hour later I found my phone and checked my messages. There was one from my sister.
“Call me,” she said. It sounded serious. So I called her back.
“I don’t think it’s an insect bite,” Brenda said.
“I think it’s a rug burn.” Brenda used very precise medical language to explain her reasoning. We talked a bit more about how to care for the wound, and then we hung up. I found Jacob.
“Jacob, Aunt Brenda thinks your bug bite might be a rug burn. Is that possible?”
“Sure," he said. I was playing on the rug out here earlier tonight.” Jacob got down on the front porch rug to demonstrate. He laid down on his back and kicked his feet up into the air. “And I felt something on my back, above my shorts.”
“Did it feel like a rug burn?”
Jacob shrugged his shoulders. "It felt kind of like something was burning me on my back. Right here." He pointed to his back, where the wound was.
IT WAS A RUG BURN. THE MYSTERY WAS SOLVED!!!!!
As I went to bed Sunday night I thought about how lucky I was to have a dermatologist for a sister! Thanks Brenda, for solving the mystery of the DEADLY BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER BITE that was JUST A RUG BURN!