I have a friend who suffered a recluse bite a week or two ago. As those nasty bites go, it was a doozy. It got her good, inside the shin, down near her ankle. She saw the critter, there’s little doubt. It formed a blister that broke and oozed, it got bigger, after about ten days there was an open wound roughly the size of a dime. It was angry and red, she’s reporting intermittent, low fever.
This looks textbook; recluse bite grows, open wound gets infected, probably with staph or something like it. The kind of thing if, left untreated with modern medicine, used to take a grisly natural course. When people had an injury like this in the ‘olden days,’ some suffered and got better, others suffered long illness and damage to their kidneys and other organs, some required desperate crude amputation, and in some cases they got horrible sick and ended dying after a feverish two or three day hell-ride.
She went to a doc, they debrided the bite, cleaned it, gave her some topical antibiotic cream and an oral antibiotic. I’m relieved about that but still worried: recluse bites are notoriously unpredictable and resistant to healing, plus they act as excellent infection vectors as long as they’re open. In some rare cases, the venom itself can trigger additional, disfiguring and/or life threatening complications all over the body.
But thanks to a sustained effort among anti-science lunatics and conmen, especially on the Internet, she sounds more worried about the antibiotics doing something bad than the infection. This patient’s otherwise healthy sense of skepticism has been scrambled by pseudoscientific nonsense for two decades. If people are bombarded with long shot, rare or nonexistent threats of antibiotics or modern medicine, with no frame of reference for how likely they are or if they’re even credible, they might tend to assume those bad outcomes are much more likely than they are in reality.
Sure, a person has the right to make their own choices, and maybe some of you with medical experience can weigh in, but it seems to me the risk of systemic septicemia or whatever the correct term would be is a much higher risk than some of the anti-science stuff I’ve been reading about this weekend. I want to encourage her to keep taking the meds and hit the doc if it gets worse. But I just know, even if she completes the meds and recovers, anything bad that happens now or for the next six months will be blamed on the Bactrim.