Prevention: Spiders hide in dark places, so teach your kids to shake out shoes (and clothes that were on the floor) and to be careful when opening boxes that have been closed for a long time. All spiders bite, but most are harmless. You may feel mild itching and see redness for a couple of days. Two exceptions are black widow and brown recluse spider bites. Both spiders are venomous, though fatalities are rare.
Treatment: If you suspect your child was bitten by a black widow or brown recluse spider, call your pediatrician and poison control right away. Otherwise, wash with soap and water, then use ice wrapped in cloth to numb the area for about 20 minutes. Apply an over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment to keep the bite from getting infected -- a common complication of nonpoisonous spider bites.
Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Parents magazine.