The Voice season 8 runner-up Meghan Linsey told People she's "glad to be alive" after suffering a brown recluse spider bite on Feb. 12. The country singer experienced "excruciating" nerve pain in her face, muscle spasms, and facial swelling for nine days after the bite, followed by a "hole" left in her face by rotting skin tissue at the wound site.
Linsey has since undergone three hyperbaric chamber treatments meant to hasten the skin's healing process. She's also using a wound-treating gel on the spot and camouflaging it with makeup. Curious about the threat of venomous arachnids like the one that bit Linsey? Here's what you need to know:
1. A brown recluse bite can be deadly if not treated.
Recluse venom has an ingredient that breaks down cell walls. If the toxin enters the blood stream—something that's more likely to happen in children and people with weakened immune systems—it can be fatal.
2. Brown recluse spiders have a distinct appearance.
They're identifiable by their six eyes (other spiders usually have eight) and their dark, violin-shaped mark on the head—the reason they're also called violin spiders.
3. They're native to southern and midwestern U.S. states.
Brown recluse spiders are found in the Midwest, ranging from Ohio to Nebraska, and in the South from Florida to Texas.
4. Being bitten by one is rare.
According to the CDC, it's impossible for these spiders to bite a human without counter pressure; the spider attacks when it becomes trapped against one's skin.
5. They like dark, dry places.
Recluses get their name because, well, they like to be alone. Outdoors, they seek shelter in piles of rocks or leaves, or underneath logs. Indoors, they can hide out in attics, shoes, and closets.
6. Their bites are sometimes mistaken for skin cancer.
Ambiguous bumps are often hard to diagnose, but NPR has a handy mnemonicdevice that can help.
7. If you're bitten, save the spider.
John Wolf, M.D., chairman of the department of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, toldPeople showing the spider to your doctor can help speed up your diagnosis. Identifying a brown recluse is easy thanks to its distinct physical characteristics, but other spiders (and their bites) may be tricky. Meghan Linsey saved the spider that bit her in a plastic bag and brought it when she visited urgent care.