The Internet can be bad

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.


  1. says

    Antibiotics can’t have magical effects. Their effects are well-known. You can’t blame random things or the well-known effects of brown recluse bites and infections on antibiotics.

    And by ‘”well-known”, we don’t mean anecdotes of random-association stories. The internet can also provide papers on these things which aren’t generated by Big Pharma, so put more stock in them than what the anti-medicine people say.

    As much as it sucks, it’s going to suck worse without doctors.

  2. magistramarla says

    My friend suffered one of these bites. She was taking something off of a shelf in her garage and the recluse fell down her shirt, landing right in that space that the bra forms between the breasts.
    She had a nasty bite there and, like your friend, she went to the doctor, who debrided it, gave her an antibiotic shot and cream. She was pretty miserable for quite some time, but it finally healed.
    It’s been many years, but we both had small children at the time and we often used ADE cream on the kids’ wounds to aid healing. I’m sure that she used that after the antibiotic cream was used up. As I remember, the scar healed nicely and was barely noticeable. Of course, I was one of the few people who ever saw it.
    I would advise your friend to take the full course of antibiotics, use the antibiotic cream and then follow up with ADE cream to help minimize the scar. Colloidal silver is also good for this.
    LOL – As a mom of five kids, I had lots of experience with wounds.

  3. ianeymeaney says

    /thinks that debrided means getting a divorce
    /googles debrided
    /throws up in mouth, a lot

    All jokes aside, I hope your friend gets better

  4. Holms says

    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.

    And also thanks to the worry induced by a nasty injury like this. Much like religion, this shit sees fear and uncertainty as an opportunity.

  5. mithrandir says

    And the thing is, worries about antibiotics could also result from misunderstandings about the problems antibiotics do cause – not because they don’t work or have side effects, but because they do work (but not perfectly).

    I’m referring, of course, to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria resulting from misuse/overuse of antibiotics.

    And from the perspective of the antibiotic-using patient, there isn’t much to worry about. Just follow the simple rules: 1) don’t ask for antibiotics for a viral infection – ideally, have the doctor test for bacteria first; 2) if you do get antibiotics, take the full course so as to minimize the chance of leaving partially-resistant survivors – don’t stop taking it just because you feel well.

    In the case at hand, 1) is almost certainly not an issue, so the problem is making sure 2) happens.

  6. lorn says

    Let us hope she follows through on the antibiotic, both keeping with the schedule and dosage, and taking all of the pills.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    The internet certainly has its moments and pros and cons.

    Yes, this sure is an good example of one of its cons in several meanings of that word.


    I’m guessing some type of spider or insect is meant by that yeah? Not y’know a person as the word is generally applied to, right!?

    Science it works (seeing this comment on your computer screen kinda proves that!) – and you should listen to the experts who have put the time and effort in to really know and prove that they know exactly what they are talking about.

    Why, why, why, would you listen to anyone else who hasn’t done that?

    I hope your friend recovers fully DarkSyde – and I also hope she reads and contemplates this post.

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