Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia man believes he was bitten by venomous brown recluse spider

Stephen McKellar of Mahone Bay spent four days in hospital as a bite on his thigh became larger and more painful.

'Oversized mosquito bite' worsened until Stephen McKellar realized he needed hospital care

A brown recluse spider crawls in a dish at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington in 2011. A Mahone Bay, N.S., man believes he was bitten by the venomous spider last week, sending him to hospital for several days. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

A Mahone Bay, N.S., man says he'll probably spend the rest of his life shaking out his pants and shorts before he puts them on after suffering what was likely a bite from a venomous brown recluse spider.

Stephen McKellar first noticed a bite on his right thigh on Aug. 2, a day before a planned vacation.

Stephen McKellar received intravenous antibiotics during his hospital stay. (Megan McKellar/Facebook)

It was a small mark that he said looked like an "oversized mosquito bite." The skin was a bit tender, but he thought nothing of it.

"I've been stung by just about everything and don't have any reactions to anything, so when something like this is happening it was like, all right, maybe there's a bit of an infection or something like that," he told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Thursday.

The next day, he headed on holiday to Fox Harbour on Nova Scotia's north shore. It was a painful drive.

"When I got there it was even worse," he said. "By Friday morning it was, 'OK I need to go into the hospital and get this looked at.'"

4 days in hospital

Brown recluse spiders are typically found in the southern and midwestern states. If one was the culprit in this case, it likely hitched a ride to Nova Scotia on grapes or bananas, McKellar's wife, Megan, said on Facebook.

Nova Scotia zoologist Andrew Hebda said there are actually several species of spiders, occassionally brought in on fruit, that can cause the type of bite McKeller experienced. 

Bites from the brown recluse spider can cause large lesions and gangrenous patches on the skin. (Megan McKellar/Facebook)

Bites from the brown recluse spider can cause large lesions and gangrenous patches on the skin, and Canadian doctors and residents have reported cases where people have been hospitalized up to five weeks as a result.

McKellar had similar symptoms, as well as increased heart rate and temperature, though his stay in hospital was only from Friday to Monday.

Megan McKellar wrote that a doctor at Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital in Tatamagouche had twice treated brown recluse bites before and said it was the likely cause in this case.

"The [doctor] said that the redness around the bite wasn't infection spreading, rather it was his skin fighting the venom from the spider," she wrote.

She said the bite is being treated like a burn because the skin breaks down during the healing process. She also urged people to check their fruit for spiders. 

"I cannot imagine what would have happened if this spider bit one of our girls, after seeing what it's done to a grown 6 foot, 240 lb man," she wrote.

Stephen McKellar was prescribed three different oral antibiotics but expects to be fine. He said he's not worried about brown recluses lurking in the area, though the house will get a second spring cleaning.

"I'm just fortunate enough that it was kind of on the best spot it could be on my body, and that it wasn't any worse," he said.

Hebda says if people spot an unusual-looking spider, they should avoid handling it — but you can try to safely capture it in a jar or thick polyethylene bag and contact the Nova Scotia Museum to verify it. He said it makes it easier to treat a spider bite if doctors know what kind of spider is responsible.